Smart, a technological platform that is used to record illegal activities in ten protected areas in Ecuador
Mapping daily patrols and registering sites where illegal activities are carried out are the main objectives of the spatial monitoring and reporting tool ( Smart ) that has been implemented in ten protected areas in Ecuador.
The platform was developed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in conjunction with the environmental organizations Frankfurt Zoological Society, Global Wildlife Conservation, North Carolina Zoo, Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation, Wildlife Protection Solutions, World Wildlife Fund and Zoological Society of London in 2011. In Ecuador, it was implemented for the first time in the Yasuní National Park in 2014.
The information obtained through Smart serves so that the Ecuadorian Government can make decisions based on data that improve the management of protected areas, says Diana Paredes, coordinator of Landscape Ecology at WCS Ecuador.
The advanced software is easy to use. It is designed for field staff such as park rangers or national park chiefs to manage, but it can also be used by organizations or individuals that provide support or are responsible for wildlife control and surveillance patrols.
The Smart platform is easy to use for park rangers in protected areas. Photos: Courtesy WCS
“It helps control logging and subsistence and commercial hunting. If the area is under mining or oil concessions, it helps to know if everything that is done is under the law. Smart helps them synthesize this information, ”says Paredes.
The rangers using a GPS device record the threats found or sightings in their patrols. This information is then synthesized by the platform in a spatially explicit database so that, according to the criteria of each area manager, more efficient conservation planning is developed and resource management is improved.
Smart currently works in Ecuador in the offline version, which facilitates its implementation in offline sites such as the country’s protected areas.
According to Paredes, in areas like Yasuní, decision-making has improved thanks to the tool. He assures that the work together with the Ministry of the Environment and Water (MAAE), through the years, has managed to transform this tool into a strength for field work.
At the beginning, a park ranger took at least forty minutes to enter the details of a route he took in one day, but currently this time has been reduced to five minutes. Yasuní, Limoncocha, Antisana, Chimborazo, Galeras San Francisco, La Chiquita, Cayapas Mataje, Cotacachi Cayapas, Pambilar and Cuyabeno are the areas within the National System of Protected Areas that work with Smart.
In the middle of this month, WCS Ecuador plans to publish, via the internet due to the restrictions that the country currently has, a detailed manual for the use of the platform. The organization wants more protected areas to use the tool freely and free of charge.
The findings and sightings made in the field are recorded in Smart. Photo: Courtesy WCS
Smart is present in 800 protected areas in the world. International environmental organizations guarantee its maintenance and updating. “Protected areas don’t have to worry about the tool becoming obsolete or having old technology. The alliance is updating it, ”says Paredes.
Protocols for the return of scientific work in the field
The pandemic has caused WCS Ecuador specialists to pause on their field visits in the areas where they usually work.
However, the processing and analysis of previously collected data has not stopped. For Paredes, COVID-19 is a clear and painful example of how environmental crimes such as wildlife trafficking can cause problems, in this case, global public health.
WCS experts have stopped their field visits due to the pandemic. They hope to return soon with all the biosecurity measures. Photos: Courtesy WCS
The specialist recognizes that doing environmental conservation from a desk is complex, but that they are preparing a “2oo%” to return to the field once the restrictions are lifted.
To return to work in person in areas of the Amazon, for example, WCS Ecuador refines a protocol with biosafety standards to prevent the spread of the virus in indigenous communities, since they are aware of the high vulnerability . (I)