• Poaching continues to threaten various animals with extinction in Africa.
  • An electric motorbike is the latest tool in the fight to protect them.
  • The solar-powered off-road bike is so quiet, poachers don’t hear it coming.
  • Drones have also proved effective in protecting rhinos.

Poaching in Africa kills 35,000 elephants a year and has driven the black rhino to the brink of extinction.

So how might a solar-powered motorcycle might help?

image of the Kalk AP electric motorbike
The Kalk AP electric motorbike is so quiet, poachers don’t hear it coming.
Image: CAKE

Technology against poachers

Through a partnership with the Southern African Wildlife College, a company called CAKE has developed the Kalk AP – an electric, off-road trail bike, which not only makes it sustainable, but quiet, too.

In vast areas of the bush, the sound of approaching vehicles warns illegal hunters to pack up and flee. But the quieter Kalk AP (the ‘AP’ stands for anti-poaching) bike could eliminate that problem.

With an 11 kilowatt motor, the bike has a maximum ride-time of three hours between charges, while a portable power station kit allows it to recharge in the middle of the African bush.

The Kalk AP is currently being offered as a trial run of just 50 bikes – and sold as a buy-one-give-one bundle. In essence, customers in the developed markets where CAKE sells are being asked to buy two bikes for around $30,000.

The purchasing customer gets one bike. The other, plus a solar-charging kit, is sent to the Southern African Wildlife College, which has trained over 18,000 people from 56 countries to work in 127 parks across Africa, protecting “some of the world’s most biologically diverse areas”.

image of endangered animal species in Africa
We are at risk of losing these endangered African species.
Image: African Wildlife Foundation

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A concerted fight-back

Peer pressure and the promise of earning a lot of money are among the main incentives for poachers, according to research from TRAFFIC, an organisation working to stem the global trade in wild animals and plants.

That report, The People Beyond the Poaching, calls for “recommendations to increase the arrests and prosecutions of the individuals that occupy the higher echelons of these illegal supply chain networks” as well as “the need to equip individuals with the ability to resist opportunities of crime through interactive community-based education programmes”.

The electric motorbike isn’t the first time technology has been put to use in Africa to fight poaching. A research team from the UK’s University of Brighton looked at methods of chasing rhino away from high-risk areas frequented by poachers. They found that airborne drones were particularly effective at getting herds of rhino to safety.

Other possible deterrents, according to TRAFFIC, include simply publicizing the severity of the penalties handed down to convicted poachers.