Innovator Profiles: Alina's Superpower is Protecting Tanzania's Wildlife

Editor's note: World Elephant Day begain in 2012 because elephants were in crisis. In 2016, the Great Elephant Census confirmed Africa's savanna elephant populations had declined by 30 percent. We continue to celebrate World Elephant Day to bring attention to the plight of elephants and the people working to protect them.

Like a lot of people in tech, Alina Peter sits at a desk most days and collects data. But this data is special. Collected in real time, it's critical to the Grumeti Fund's anti-poaching efforts in Tanzania. As the non-profit's anti-poaching Operations Room Coordinator, Peter is at the center of helping Grumeti Fund rangers save wildlife by leading operations around Vulcan Inc's EarthRanger, a software platform that collects data to help inform conservation efforts in protected parks around the world. On a normal day, this means collecting information on poaching incidents, wounded animals and other problems that can occur and then working with rangers on the ground to address them quickly and effectively. We sat with Alina to talk about her job working in conservation, how EarthRanger is a "game changer" and why she's optimistic about wildlife conservation in the future.

Tell us about what you do at the Grumeti Fund.

I am the anti-poaching Operations Room Coordinator for the Grumeti Fund. I have an IT background, so what I do for the Grumeti Fund, particularly for the anti-poaching department, is I use technology to support boots on the ground. We run a software called ER (EarthRanger) and that enables us to monitor our rangers and coordinate incidents that happened so that we can have the right people where they should be at the right time. And we also control the radio traffic. That means getting in reports to be as precise and as short as possible. And we also monitor collared subjects like lions and elephants

You mentioned you have an IT background. What is it like for you to be able to apply that skillset to wildlife conservation?

Combining conservation and technology is actually something that I'm so passionate about because of its uniqueness and the fact that it's a cutting-edge technology. It's a completely new way of tackling conservation and anti-poaching challenges. The thing that drives my passion is the impact that I see. That what we do has [impact] on conservation anti-poaching efforts and the communities that surround our reserve. It’s nice seeing that the community is more involved in becoming more aware of what is in their area and how to protect it and value it.

What has EarthRanger brought to the table in terms of how you approach your work?

Before EarthRanger, our anti-poaching department had no system. It was mainly paperwork and maybe an access database every now and again, but it was just a trail of papers. When EarthRanger went live in 2017 it was actually quite a game changer because then we had reports in real time. We knew where our scouts were and were able to use various technologies that are integrated into EarthRanger and it all worked perfectly. All these various technologies could be seen on one platform. So EarthRanger has become quite important. Now that conservation is a hot topic, many technologies are being developed to work in conservation. But it's so easy to get lost in what works and what doesn't work for you. Having EarthRanger has given us the ability to have various technologies integrated into one and being able to use it and visualize and get reports and store reports in one platform.

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What’s your most memorable experience in the field?

One of my most memorable times in a field was getting to be involved in the darting of an elephant and treating it. I know that elephants are critical and they are an endangered species now because of all the poaching and all the conflicts that come with it. But it was quite an experience for me because I had never seen one like that, and I even got involved in doing activities like drawing blood. Seeing an elephant icon in EarthRanger is very different from being up close to it and being able to touch his trunk and be involved with it on a more personal level.

What makes you optimistic about the future of wildlife and conservation efforts at The Grumeti Fund?

What makes me optimistic about what I do is knowing that the contribution that I provide is valued, the positive impact that Grumeti Fund has in wildlife conservation and anti-poaching and also the positive impact on the communities.