Open source data is being used to help put a stop to wildlife poaching.
In 2011, a multi-national group of conservation practitioners launched a digital tool to help curb and stop wildlife poaching. The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) is an open source platform designed to be used by those on the frontline of stopping illegal wildlife hunting and killing, namely park rangers and security, providing them with the most up-to-date ranger patrol information and allowing them to map and report incidents as well as share best practice methods for catching poachers and protecting local fauna.
The free-to-download system includes a desktop application, training and implementation manuals, web-based training materials and standardised protocols. Given the emphasis on a bottom up approach to wildlife protection, one huge focal point when creating the system was making it accessible and applicable hence, SMART is designed with ease of use in mind and, most importantly, is available is a variety of languages.
SMART was developed as part of a partnership between CITES-MIKE, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the North Carolina Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London. The team recognised that conservation efforts were increasingly becoming no match against wildlife poachers and traders who were adopting more sophisticated techniques and technology to hunt and kill their prey while the demand for items like ivory has been steadily on the up, due in large part to China's growing economy and the desire of some to use ivory trinkets as status symbols.
Of course, it's not just ivory that's sought. According to the Zoological Society of London:
- in the last 2 years over 10 percent of the total African elephant population has been slaughtered for ivory, a death toll the species cannot sustain;
- since 2000, over 1000 tigers have been poached;
- rhino poaching in Africa has increased by 43 percent between 2011 and 2012 and this rate seems to be rising - since the start of 2013, one rhino is killed every 11 hours; and
- in our oceans, many shark species are being driven to extinction as massive levels of overfishing, estimated at over 100 million individuals killed annually, takes its toll.
Source: Zoological Society of London, "Illegal Wildlife Trade Crisis".
As demand for illegal wildlife trading grows, poachers will be able to develop more and more cunning techniques to evade law enforcement. Tools like SMART, which support capacity building and facilitate rapid information sharing, are critical to help beat paochers at their own game. Head over to the SMART website to find out more or download the system here.