Kenyan teenager's simple device could stop elephant poaching

19-year-old Mercy Sigey has developed a device that notifies park officials when poachers cross into animal reserves.

Thomas Mukoya/Reuters/File
An elephant and her young one are seen during an aerial census at the Tsavo West national park in Kenya. A 19-year-old Kenyan woman has developed a system of sensors for detecting when poachers may be entering animal reserves.

When Mercy Sigey was three years old her parents would take her to safari reserves in her native Kenya. Sigey, now 19, told the crowd at the United Nations Social Good Summit on Monday [Sept. 22] about her plan to fight poaching in Kenya’s animal reserves and around the world. 

In May, a poacher’s poison arrow killed Satao, an elephant who was more than 45 years old. More than 20,000 African elephants were killed last year for their tusks. Satao's tucks weighed at least 100 pounds, and when poachers killed him they cut them out of his head and left his body on the ground.

Moved by Satao’s death, Sigey developed a device that notifies park officials when poachers cross into the reserves. 

Along with her classmates, Sigey built a simple sensor that can detect movement in a nine-meter [30 ft.] radius. The students received support from the Innovate Kenya program, which is part of Global Minimum, a nonprofit that focuses on youth education and helps students in Africa solve problems in their communities.

By placing Arduinos — small, open-source hardware boards that act as environmental sensors — throughout the park, the group would be able to notify park officials of the presence of poachers and wildfires. 

“I’m sure all of you here sitting in this hall would want to see an elephant standing magnificently and not lying down dead on the ground,” said Sigey, who was wearing a shirt decorated with zebras.

Mozambique Moves to Make Elephant Poachers an Endangered SpeciesThe World’s Forests Are Being Degraded at an Alarming Rate, and That’s Hurting Elephants, Tigers, and Bears

Why We Have to Save Wildlife to Save Ourselves

• TakePart staff writer Nicole Pasulka has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and New York Observer. She lives in New York City.

The original article appeared at TakePart, a leading source of socially relevant news, features, opinion, entertainment, and information – all focused on the issues that shape our lives. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Kenyan teenager's simple device could stop elephant poaching
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today