Black and white photo of a white Rhino

CAKE rides to the rescue to reduce poaching

Poaching is one of the oldest activities known to man, a practice passed down through generations for thousands of years. Old habits die hard.

Fortunately, poaching is now considered an illegal act, but not all people in all corners of the globe play by the same rules. In fact, in places such as South Africa, the poaching of rhinos soared by 7,700 per cent between 2007-13.

Species including the black rhino, lions, mountain gorillas and Grévy’s zebras are all under continual threat, with populations dwindling remarkably in just the last few decades. In the case of black rhinos, the African Wildlife Foundation estimates their population has collapsed by 97.6 per cent since 1960, while there are barely 1,000 mountain gorillas left.

Governments in countries such as South Africa remain vigilant, attempting to stamp out the act of poaching, often done to extract lucrative wares such as rhino horns or bushmeat, but they can only do so much. CAKE, a Swedish electric bike company, has an innovative idea, which could save precious lives.

A piece of CAKE

According to Stefan Ytterborn, Swedish CEO and founder of CAKE, the name of his electric bike company stems back to a curious happenstance that occurred to him, after founding another company, POC. POC Sports produces skiing, snowboarding and cycling helmets as protective gear for people with a passion for those sports.

There’s this flat organisational perspective of things, creating the attitude of taking risks without sacrificing or risking being excluded.

– Stefan Ytterborn, CEO and founder of CAKE

Stefan devised a logo for POC using two triangle shapes reminiscent of those seen on crash-test dummies. “I didn’t know what to name the company, so one morning in the car, I was trying to associate what it looks like from above, and it looks like pieces of cake…Piece of Cake made POC…then when I left POC, one of the pieces of the cake was gone but the rest of the cake is still there.”

CAKE is like a spin-off of POC, as it were, focusing not on the protective equipment required by athletes but the vehicles cyclists of the future may need – electric bikes which produce no noise, unlike their gas-guzzling motorbike counterparts.

To those who have followed us in covering the latest in cutting edge technology and ways of living, you’ll know there is a fascination with all things Scandinavian: when we spoke to Martyn Odell at Lagom Chef, he advocated the Swedish concept of ‘lagom’, a Goldilocks-like way of living in which people avoid imbalance and opt for getting all things just right, whether they be in terms of diet, the way they design homes or any aspect of life you can think of.

A Scandinavian specialty

But what is it about Scandinavian people which gives them that environmentally-conscious outlook on life? Why are people from this corner of the world so mindful about the natural world, and about the need to balance our needs and avoid living beyond our means?

Whatever you do, you’re obligated to treat the environment with respect. There’s this responsibility being taught to kids, and I think that creates an interactive respect.

– Stefan Ytterborn, CEO and founder of CAKE

When asking Stefan Ytterborn, we received a fascinating insight: “We’ve got something called the All Man’s Right, which means everyone has the right to experience the back country, no matter who actually owns that piece of land, so long as you make sure not to disturb anyone and where they live. You can move about any forest, at any time, at any place.”

Stefan is referring to the Swedish term Allemansrätten, a special freedom to roam as enshrined by the Constitution of Sweden. Since 1994, this freedom has allowed Swedes to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on virtually most open land, excluding private gardens, reserves, protected areas and places in the immediate vicinity of dwellings and cultivated land. Hunting is forbidden, but Swedes may pick wild flowers, berries and mushrooms.

This ability to roam the countryside is incredible, when you consider that just 1.5 per cent of Swedish land, or 630,000 hectares, was considered urban in 2018. The population is just over 10.23 million people, with a landscape spanning 450,000 square kilometres, with most people residing in the southern urban areas such as Stockholm.
“Whatever you do”, Stefan explains, “you’re obligated to treat the environment with respect. There’s this responsibility being taught to kids, and I think that creates an interactive respect.”

Stefan is also of the view that Sweden’s role as an innovator is made possible through the culture which the country has developed as a democracy over the centuries, in which tolerance of hierarchies has been broken down, and the barriers to innovation have been removed. The ability to ask questions and propose new ways of thinking is made possible, allowing the sciences to advance profoundly, amidst a level playing field of people working among equals.

As Stefan believes, “There’s this flat organisational perspective of things, creating the attitude of taking risks without sacrificing or risking being excluded.”

The ride of a lifetime

Describing his professional life, Stefan reveals: “I’ve been an entrepreneur pretty much my whole life…the common denominator has been consumer products… and always driven by trying to bring purpose. That’s what we’re doing here at CAKE: inspiring towards zero emissions by combining excitement with responsibility.”

CAKE designed the Kalk AP (Anti-Poaching) bike, an electric bike which has been modified and developed between CAKE and anti-poaching rangers themselves. Powered by a solar power station, using panels provided by Goal Zero, CAKE unveiled a limited-edition charity combo of 50 bikes, all marked with their own unique number.
The bikes have been sold as price-reduced bundles of two Kalk APs plus an installed solar power station plus panel, with the buyer getting one bike while the second and the solar power station and panels are sent straight over to the
Southern African Wildlife College.

The advantage of using Kalk APs in preventing poaching is obvious: poachers operate in the shadows, and nothing disturbs their plans more than the authorities being able to sneak up on them as they are about to strike, silently surveilling them using an electric bike which doesn’t produce that chugging sound of a petrol-powered engine.

The Kalk AP looks unconventional by appearance: a lack of a petrol tank gives the model a remarkable lightness and it looks closer to a fortified bicycle than a motorised bike of any kind. Headlights are detachable and the fenders and bodywork are comprised of lightweight recycled fibre-enforced plastics. The frame is moulded out of aluminium, a light but durable metal.

Charging up to 80 per cent takes as little as two hours, while a full charge is achieved in three, with the Kalk AP powered by premium 18650 lithium cells running at 51.8 volts. It has a capacity of 50 Amp-hours per 2.6 kilowatt-hours, and drivers can keep track of their battery usage through a clear status of charge (SoC) indicator built into the bike.

Nostalgia vs. innovation

Staying future-positive is a crucial mindset that will power the innovations of the future. Without some hope or a positive outlook on the days to come, it’s hard to conceive how things can be changed for the better in the present.
Stefan shares his view on where things are going, saying: “I’m hopeful, I don’t know if I’m optimistic…I’m afraid that one of the main kind of perspectives that will be promoted is the aspect of nostalgia…it’s about people saying, ‘we used to swim in this lake, back in the days, there were fish in this river. We had snow normally by early December’ – that’s a really sad perspective, when everything becomes nostalgic.”

For Stefan, being constantly transfixed on how much better things used to be could stifle the ambition to improve our lot. “That’s my worst nightmare, that instead of forward innovation and motion, it will be looking back with that nostalgic perspective. But then on the other hand, let’s not make this happen.”

The Kalk AP is a combination of ideas coming together – high-quality products with great functionality, with a true purpose at its heart. Aesthetically, the bike is light and agile, but looking beyond the outward appearance, it serves as a useful tool to achieve something truly future-positive: it bypasses the need to use hydrocarbons to power it, breaking that dependence on unsustainable fuels.

It also has a part to play, aiding anti-poaching authorities in using the essence of surprise with its silent movements to catch up with those who would harm endangered animals and stop them in their tracks. Protecting wildlife is entering a new exciting phase, aided by the latest in electric bike technology from the likes of CAKE. As mentioned, poaching is a practice dating back thousands of years, since humans learned to walk. While old habits die hard, the Kalk AP is doing its bit to keep conservation efforts on track.

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