By Bernhard Warner
Coveted for its supposed medicinal benefits or as a status symbol for the rich and eccentric, rhino horns are in huge demand again, a trend that conservationists fear could wipe out the most vulnerable rhino species in a matter of years. In Asia, where demand is strongest, the Javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam in 2011, and two others Asian species are critically endangered. Now, with the street price of rhino horn around $65,000 per kilogram, poachers have turned to African rhinos.
“It started about four years ago, when we had about 10 to 15 rhinos killed. The next year it went up to 250. Last year it was over 660. The numbers just keep escalating,” says Michael Grover, a wildlife conservationist at South Africa’s Sabi Sand Game Reserve. According to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, there were 273 rhino poaching incidents reported through April 30.
Grover’s small team of conservationists and security officers patrol an area 80 times larger than New York’s Central Park, and to fight poachers, they needed a more intelligent plan of attack. Grover wanted to know where and when the break-ins were occurring, how the rhinos were being attacked, and who might be behind the killings. “I went on to Google one day,” Grover recalls, “and typed in ‘how to make a BlackBerry app.’ That’s when I found the guys at Canvas.”
Canvas Solutions, a Reston (Va.) software developer that pushes companies to ditch paper in favor of digital sharing, wasn’t an obvious choice. London 2012 organizers used Canvas to manage certain inventory and security matters during the Summer Olympic Games, and an aircraft fueling company uses it for crane inspections. “A lot of NGOs use us too,” says Canvas co-founder and Chief Executive James Quigley. For example, medical researchers used Canvas to record from the field patient details during a suspected outbreak of avian flu in Madagascar in 2008. More....