The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 Oct 2022
Efforts to combat poaching of wildlife in Asia, Africa and Latin America have just gotten smarter with the release of a powerful new extension to the widely adopted Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) from the SMART Partnership
Peace Parks Foundation is a proud member of SMART and further contributes to these efforts by training southern African protected area staff in the use thereof.
Called SMART Connect, the new technology allows rangers and conservation area managers to exchange critical information and transmit data in real time. SMART Connect delivers a revolutionary suite of services improving access to data for park staff and managers on pressing issues such as poaching and human wildlife conflict.
With SMART Connect, a new cloud-based extension to SMART, the ease and quickness with which users can translate patrol efforts in the field into actionable data for improving conservation practice at their site(s) is greatly enhanced. Connect facilitates data capture in as close to real time as a site’s infrastructure allows, making it possible for rangers to manage and respond to real-time threats. It also allows for integration of SMART data with data from other sources (e.g., Global Forest Watch) and other commonly used field sensors, such as remote camera traps, allowing for more a comprehensive understanding of complex site dynamics.
To date, however, the most important benefits of Connect have been its ability to centrally manage SMART sites, facilitating information sharing of data, maps, and reports across entire protected area or landscape networks. The software also enables access to SMART reporting from non-SMART users, often those in key decision-making roles regarding the deployment of conservation resources. These added functionalities make SMART Connect an unparalleled tactical, operational and analytical tool for conservation management.
“The uptake of SMART Connect has been incredible,” said Jonathan Palmer, SMART chief technology officer and executive director of Strategic Technology, WCS. “In the pilot phase alone, nearly a third of the countries using SMART have implemented SMART Connect, encompassing more than 250 sites across Africa, Asia and Latin America, targeting the deployment of patrolling teams to where they have the greatest impact.”
The SMART Partnership is made up of nine global conservation organizations: Frankfurt Zoological Society, Global Wildlife Conservation, North Carolina Zoo, Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Protection Solutions, World Wildlife Fund, and Zoological Society of London. Originally designed primarily as a desktop application to combat wildlife poaching, SMART is a widely adopted, community-owned, and open-source conservation software tool.
In a number of pilot cases, SMART Connect has already facilitated more efficient data management, real-time data capture and analysis, and adaptive decision-making. For example, the Belize Fisheries Department has created a centralized SMART Connect database that automatically compiles all data from Fisheries Officers and Rangers in the Marine Protected Areas system. In the Philippines, currently the largest-scale national deployment of SMART, data are collected in nearly 200 different conservation areas using mobile devices and sent back wirelessly to a national SMART Connect database.
“We have integrated SMART in the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System,” said Nonito M. Tamayo, director of the Forest Management Bureau in the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “SMART Connect greatly contributes to the Lawin system for it aids our decision makers in analyzing and visualizing data gathered from the field for developing policies and management interventions toward sustainable forest management.”
Poaching of wildlife has become a global crisis. Countless species, ranging from iconic elephants to little-known forest tortoises and beyond, are victim to the crisis and driven closer to extinction. Protected areas rely on highly skilled and dedicated guards, rangers and managers and are critically important to efforts to conserve these species. However, many lack adequate enforcement capacity and/or systematic monitoring programs that can adaptively inform their management. Conservation practitioners and protected area managers need these data on the occurrence and distribution of wildlife, threats, and protection efforts, in order to make effective decisions on the deployment of the limited resources at their disposal.
“Royal Manas National Park is the first site in Bhutan to adopt SMART,” said Tenzin Wangchuk, park manager, Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan. “SMART Connect allows our rangers to send real-time data to our central database, improving the speed and effectiveness of law enforcement’s response to poaching and illegal activities. With SMART Connect, I feel that the ability to detect and respond to threats in real-time will shift the focus from where poaching has happened to where poaching is about to happen.”
Since its release, SMART has been adopted at more than 500 terrestrial and marine sites in 46 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and has rapidly become the global standard for conservation law enforcement and protected area monitoring. With the continued support of the global SMART community, the SMART Partnership aims to ensure that SMART continues to meet the emerging and expanding needs of the conservation community, and that critical information and protection management systems are put in place to facilitate strategic and well-informed approaches to managing conservation areas.
The SMART Partnership is a group of global conservation agencies, conservation organizations, and individuals that share a mission to conserve biodiversity, reduce the impacts of illegal extraction and trade of natural resources, strengthen law enforcement related to biodiversity conservation, and strengthen overall management of conservation areas. Current SMART Partnership members include: Frankfurt Zoological Society, Global Wildlife Conservation, North Carolina Zoo, Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Protection Solutions, World Wildlife Fund, and Zoological Society of London. Follow: @SMARTCnsvTools.