Dec. 29, 2000: Tracking Animals With GPS

New technology helps track endangered wildlife species in Africa.
7:39 | 12/29/11

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Transcript for Dec. 29, 2000: Tracking Animals With GPS
This morning my son put in a good hour at the computer it was a letters and numbers game he's not into -- -- -- the aliens things yet. It was an educational program supposedly he enjoys it he's good with the mouse he knows his way around -- keyboard. And this kid is four years old. It wasn't all that long ago that a significant proportion of adult Americans work well scared of computers. Of course they didn't admitted they did admit that they were worried they might not be Smart enough to use something that seem so complex. Instead people adopted -- pose of defiant DC interest sometimes you hear people say. I -- computer illiterate and they said it in a way that meant that they were proud of that. And then. Eventually people found out the computers are not all that difficult to use. But they are very difficult to avoid we encounter keyboards at work touch -- at the bank mouse pads at the library. Millions of us are on line and many in that group know exactly where to click when the voice says you've got mail read mail reply to mail send mail. Computer literacy. You don't even hear that phrase very much anymore. But where would computers fitting in -- world of genuine illiteracy. Pick a place where people don't know how to read or write but do have knowledge and ideas and insights. We just don't know how to put them on Paper. But -- the computer could be designed to let them record what they know. He's not a good thing. That is the premise of tonight's broadcast ABC correspondent Richard Gizbert reports from Southern Africa. Where a computer designed for use by -- literate. Has been put in the hands of people who know nothing of the written word. But much about this earth that we live now. Where most people just see a desert -- Bernard -- much more. -- -- -- -- You can look at a truck on the ground and tell you what kind of animal -- and went. He can look at -- bush and tell you what animals were feeding there yesterday. For centuries bushman hunters like -- Bernard. Today Benson is on the trail of a -- that killed his brother a few days ago. Least I'm -- splitting these tracks are not fresh set the wind has blown over from there from yesterday. Still the lions not far away so Benson and his friends remain alert. But they know what they're -- Tracking is an age old tradition and art. Handed down through generations. Of African families who use that as a means of survive. -- -- like two dollar and -- the only way we could get food in the house he says was by going out and looking for the tracks of an animal. He would find very very fresh tracks and we would kill it. For decades the white man has tried to use tracts and their skills to support wildlife tourists. They hired them as guides like here in South Africa's -- national park where poking works. -- because trackers can see what others cannot they are a potential gold mine of information on the environment. But the truckers are -- -- their inability to read or write meant they could never properly record what they saw. They could never really share what they knew it would find some way of capturing. That knowledge that -- nature. It could be Betty -- to venture consideration. Do we lead Greenberg is a South Africa. And environmentalist. With a foot in both world Rangers and tractors. He lived with -- and learned how to track from them. He learned to see what they see and learn that every piece of soft ground has its own story to tell you could -- on -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Now know that this is than a mongoose looks another struck spoke at because of the number of those who -- -- to -- -- such a it's experience with trackers partly -- -- and society is too quick to dismiss people who cannot read or write. He believed he discovered a resource that could be harmful. What you need -- to -- some worry for them to be able to record -- operations into it it makes it accessible tune. -- -- researchers. People who who don't have that immediate understanding. Of the sophistication of the -- Perception of nature. -- Bloomberg's idea give the -- hand held computers to bridge the literacy. This is a project that has modern science embracing an ancient art. When that uses new technology to capture valuable knowledge that up until now was wasted because the people who had that knowledge couldn't write it down. Louis lead Bloomberg knew nothing about computers so he enlisted the help of someone who didn't. I had a preconceptions and -- people. At a certain analysts just catch him which would prevent them from. Comprehending them. The complexities of -- and -- -- on the computer. Affected our Moscow Putin took myself was a bit different. Because. As the students came up with these suggestions are comedic receive it was too complex -- -- Together the two men devised a program that could be deciphered by illiterates. And the literate interface built around something truckers see every day in the bush. Signs and symbols. There are you should read science -- nature. So if there was science initial -- on screen. Theoretically -- -- difference. All computer users use science only we call them like. Now when Benson spots an elephant at a watering hole in Namibia. He starts the recording process by touching the corresponding icon on his computer. In South Africa -- he uses his computer the same way. When he sees a rhinoceros. And endangered species he matches it with the icon on the screen. The computer then spins him through pages and pages of options. Allowing -- to record precisely how many rhinos he sees their gender and what they're doing. To help him record where he has seen the animals the bushman tracker uses space technology. Attached to the back of the computer is the GPS or global positioning system. It takes readings from at least three satellites which then pinpoint Hokies ground location to within 75 yards. All the data is loaded into the park's main computer. This is the map of the -- -- let's a lot of information. It's aggressive actions -- woman could be you know right. Knowing precisely where endangered animals are makes it easier to protect them from predators and poachers -- Expect it started to and that's -- and we don't what debate ideas -- -- where there oh with. In the past -- the only systematic wildlife service were done from the air. They were expensive and inaccurate only counting the big animals. But by getting precise data -- on the ground. Wardens can prevent problems before they -- Just one important benefit of this unlikely -- Between the technology of today and the skills of yesterday.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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