Beth Buczynski writes:
According to the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, illegal trafficking of wildlife now ranks as the 3rd largest criminal industry in the world. Every year, millions of animals are slaughtered or kidnapped because of the value placed on their pelt, skin, horns, tusks or meat. This industry driven not just by criminals looking to make a quick buck, but also by complex social, economic and environmental issues.
Poaching is at its worst in developing nations where exotic wildlife is plentiful, but conservation officers and regulations are few. That’s why a new high-tech tool recently unveiled at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea, could go a long way in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.
The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool, or SMART, is designed to help park and community rangers fight illegal wildlife trade by identifying poaching hotspots, improving rapid response measures and calculating the impact of anti-poaching efforts in order to maximize results. It is an open-source, non-proprietary software system that was provided free to grassroots rangers by a consortium of conservation organizations at the World Conservation Congress. The consortium will also provide training so rangers know how to properly use SMART to scale up their anti-poaching efforts.
“All members of the SOS partnership, along with other donors, decided unanimously to fund this effort for two reasons: first a consortium of the largest conservation organizations are behind it and, second, given that poachers are using increasingly sophisticated techniques, we absolutely need to provide the best possible tools and use the latest technology to those people fighting everyday to preserve wildlife around the world,” said Jean-Christophe Vié, Director of SOS – Save Our Species. “We call on other donors to join us in supporting SMART, and countries and conservation groups to adopt it.”
More than just a tool to help isolated rangers keep tabs on poaching in their own area, SMART will instantly incorporate individual rangers into a global network. By enabling rapid feedback and communication between protected area managers and frontline enforcement staff, and facilitating the sharing of this information with a global network of support, the tool will allow agencies to accurately measure the impact of specific anti-poaching efforts and provide information to government agencies to assess cost-effectiveness of law enforcement efforts.