Over the past decade, poaching of wildlife – particularly the world’s iconic species – tigers, rhinos and elephants – has skyrocketed. The illegal wildlife trade has fed off the rapid progress in technology, and poaching methods are forever getting more sophisticated. Conservation is a constant battle – and it’s a battle we can’t afford to lose.
In January, a regional SMART training workshop was hosted in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – the first of its kind for a number of organisations outside of the SMART partnership. Representatives from local NGOs, global NGOs and government officials from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Laos, Armenia and Azerbaijan gained skills and training experience that will now be taken back to their countries and used to develop capacity in their conservation areas.
So, what is SMART?
Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) is an effective law enforcement tool that has seen rapid global rollout since its inception in 2013. It is fast becoming the standardised way to collect data on threats – instead of putting information on a paper data sheet stored in backroom where no one sees it, SMART keeps all of the information in one place and allows people to not only see the data – but ask questions. Where are my rangers going? Where are the poaching hotspots? And most importantly, where do my rangers need to go?
“SMART is great on the front end, but where SMART is really powerful is the backend analysis, reporting, and mapping”
~ Alexa Montefiore, SMART Partnership Program Manager
One of the key reasons behind SMART’s success is collaboration. Supported by nine leading conservation organisations with experience on the ground, it is now open source software with input from users and developers around the world.
“SMART is a tool for adapting your existing system for law enforcement monitoring to make it more efficient – it can work in any situation in the conservation realm – it’s very adaptable – which is why it’s attractive to people.” ~ Tony Lynam, WCS
“For patrol monitoring in our area, we use paper [SMART booklets] – it is very new for us – we just finished the data collection training in December. In the past we tried but we didn’t have a good system, the rangers brought the data but there was no system for collating, analysing or reporting on patrol efforts.” ~ Seree Wantai, Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative
Nearly 150 sites across 30 countries are currently implementing SMART; at the stage where rangers are collecting the data, inputting it into SMART, analysing the data with reports and feeding it back into the patrol planning process.
“The areas we’re working in are now conducting monthly patrol meetings – using SMART and GIS to produce patrol maps and see what the gaps are in enforcement, where the wildlife is and how they can direct what are ultimately very scarce resources in a more cost effective way so they can help protect wildlife.” ~ Eric Ash, Freeland Foundation Thailand
In the end SMART aims to not only support rangers in their patrolling efforts, but also site managers in their planning and governments in their management – improving the protection of wildlife and the forest at all levels.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme, Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), North Carolina Zoo (NCZ), Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and Zoological Society of London (ZSL).