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WCS Malaysia Design Challenge

The Wildlife Conservation Society is an international organization dedicated to protecting the last wild places on Earth. The WCS Malaysia programme works to protect iconic species such as tigers and elephants, as well as all of the other life that lives in these wild areas. This means working alongside government agencies to monitor the most remote parts of Malaysia and prevent illegal killing of wildlife and illegal exploitation of natural resources.

Practically all of the wildlife in Malaysia’s forests are under threat from human activities and unless action is taken to protect these areas. In the near future, it is likely that many remarkable animals will no longer be found in Malaysia. In addition to this, Malaysia’s forests provide the water that we drink, we use to grow our food and also support many industries. Without healthy forests and the ecosystem services they provide, the success and stability of Malaysian society is also at risk.

Malaysian wildlife illegally exploited: Left to right: A tiger killed by poachers; one of 97 pangolins rescued alive from poachers; a
chick of a brahminy kite sold over WhatsApp messenger.
Source: The Star Online 2016

Participants can take up one of the following three categories of the WCS Malaysia Design Challenge.

WCS Malaysia and government partners deploy many sensors into remote areas of the forest to help detect illegal activity and monitor wildlife. The Innovate Malaysia Design Challenge 2016 helped to develop some of these sensors. However, there are two significant challenges still being faced:

Transmission of Data from Remote Area
The forests of Malaysia are very large and lack any communication infrastructure (such as cell phone coverage or radio antennas). WCS Malaysia requires a reliable and regular method of transmitting information across up to 50km of forest and rugged terrain.
  • Information to be transmitted can be image files or text alerts.
  • The frequency of transmission can vary. Ideally, immediate transmission is best however it would be acceptable to have one update per day.
  • The design should be able to either power itself or have a battery life of approximately three months.
  • The design must be weather and insect proof.
Preventing or Detecting Theft of Sensors
Many of the sensors deployed by WCS Malaysia are stolen and may even be used by criminals to help their illegal activities. WCS Malaysia requires a system of detecting when sensors are tampered with or stolen. A bonus would be a way to track where these are taken so the criminals can be located.
  • The design should be attached or wirelessly tethered to sensors currently in use.
  • The design should be concealed so that criminals do not simply destroy the device.
  • The design must be weather and insect proof.
  • The design’s battery must last as long as the sensor it is attached/tethered to (up to 3 months).
  • The design should include a method of alerting WCS Malaysia of any tampering.

Malaysia’s rainforests are world-renown as having some of the toughest terrain in the world. WCS Malaysia’s research teams operate in this environment on a daily basis so need assistance to keep the teams safe.

Campsite Security
The teams are vulnerable to attack from poachers when they rest for the night. In addition, there is a risk of wildlife accidentally walking into the camp. WCS Malaysia requires a simple electronic security net that can be quickly deployed around a campsite and then pack-up in the morning for taking to the next campsite.
  • The design needs to be lightweight for hiking between campsites.
  • The design needs to be quick to set-up and pack-away.
  • The design needs to protect an area of approximately 150 m².
  • The design needs to have a good battery life; 12hrs through the night, up to eight nights in one trip.
  • The design must be weather and insect proof.
Team Member Locator
The forests are very difficult to navigate in. There is a risk of team members becoming lost or in emergency situations, the team may need to scatter to avoid a serious incident. WCS Malaysia requires a system to help team members locate each other in the event of one member becoming lost or a team becoming scattered.
  • The design should be lightweight so team members can carry it at all times.
  • The design must be able to work if a team member is unconscious.
  • The design’s range needs to be up to 500m in forest conditions.
  • The design’s battery life needs to last for the duration of an expedition which is up to nine days.
  • The design must be water proof.

Some solutions in use are trenches or electric fences to stop elephants from entering plantations but these each have their own limitations.
It must always be remembered that Malaysia’s forests are not just home to wildlife, but also to human populations who may have lived in these areas for many generations. Sometimes elephants and other large herbivores engage in ‘crop raiding’ where they come into farms or villages to eat crops. The causes of this behaviour are very complex but the consequences can be devastating with loss of life of animals and humans. WCS Malaysia works with villagers to prevent this ‘human elephant conflict’ (HEC) to protect
both the animals and the human communities. Current systems in use include ditches or electric fences which both require regular maintenance. These fences can still be crossed by determined elephants. WCS Malaysia requires a system to detect the approach of large animals which will then alert the villagers so that they can intercept the animal and scare it away.
  • The circumference of villages and farmland or plantations can be very large so the design should be low cost so that it can be deployed across very large distances.
  • The design is likely to be located in close proximity to villages.
  • This design should include a way to report on the status of the fence to aid maintenance.
  • The alert should be instant to enable villagers to respond to the approaching animal quickly.
  • The design must be water and insect proof.
  • Should not rely on the elephants wearing tags.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has the clear mission to save wildlife and wild places across the globe. WCS was first involved in Malaysia in the 1960s with the first ever surveys of orangutans in Sarawak, work that continues to this day. In Peninsular Malaysia, WCS began working alongside the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in the late 1990s on surveys of tigers throughout the Peninsular. By  2007, WCS Malaysia began focusing on specific landscapes and started working with the Johor National Parks Corporation in the Endau-Rompin Johor National Park and the Permanent Reserved Forests surrounding it. In 2010, WCS Malaysia expanded its work into Pahang as well. The aim of the work is to balance development and conservation interests and to protect the region’s wild tiger and elephant populations, among other species. To learn more, visit www.wcsmalaysia.org

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