China’s Alibaba, Kenya hold talks on wildlife conservation


Alibaba founder Jack Ma. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Alibaba Cloud, a subsidiary of business magnate Jack Ma's Alibaba Group, is in talks with the Kenyan government to protect local wildlife through the use of technology.

Alibaba and the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife are in talks on how to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT) to protect wildlife inside the Tsavo East and West National Parks, one of Kenya's oldest and largest protected area with over 13,500 square kilometres.

“It is our great honour to support the Kenyan government and make a contribution to the country's wildlife conservation efforts. The collaboration underscores the positive impact that technology, including cloud computing, AI and IoT, can have on the planet and on wildlife protection,” said Simon Hu, Senior Vice President of Alibaba Group and President of Alibaba Cloud.

The Chinese tech giant and the ministry will explore using a wide range of features connected to Alibaba Cloud's IoT platform for the project. These include animal tracking sensors, drones, infra-red trap cameras, smart weather stations and ranger devices. The two parties will consider embedding these technologies in order to collect real-time data on the movements and general health of Kenya's wildlife.

The platform would then analyse the data and predict their behaviour and travel routes, alerting the command centre about potential risks or dangers such as illegal poaching and human-animal conflicts.

This could help direct the deployment of ground teams to act more quickly and better manage the park.

“Wildlife is the main attraction to tourists visiting Kenya. It is therefore important for the Government of Kenya to use technology to protect wildlife and their habitats in the Tsavo ecosystem,” said Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife PS Margaret Mwakima.

In addition, both parties will explore ways to combine a local telephone operator's GSM telecommunications network with government-licensed satellites to build the infrastructure, which could make data transmission more intelligent and less costly.