Adopting technologies can be a true game changer for stopping poaching. However with an increasing number of technologies available for anti-poaching work, finding the most useful and cost effective tools can be a challenge. The tools below cover a wide range from mobile tech and apps to dogs to DNA sequencing.
SMART is the tool for measuring, evaluating and improving effective patrols and site-based enforcement activities. This tool recognizes the power of information and importance of accountability in directing resources to where they are most needed. SMART isn’t owned by any individual or any organization: it is free and available to the whole conservation community. SMART includes a desktop application with a mobile data collection plug-in enabled through CyberTracker, training and implementation manuals, web-based training materials, standardized protocols and an active and growing community of users who are sharing their experiences to help improve and sustain SMART over the long-term.
The probability of detecting poaching activity has improved through increasingly advanced technology and use of search algorithms. Light aircraft with unmanned aerial surveillance technology such as high-resolution color, infrared or FLIR cameras can be used to provide real-time information on poaching activity. RF Mesh Networks are enabling real-time data from cameras placed at strategic locations around protected areas such as entry points or waterholes. Similarly a system of electronic sensors called TrailGuards which can buried underground or hidden amongst trees, send patrol teams precise coordinates of poachers who activate them. Where real-time data can be obtained, rapid responses can be initiated.
Combining an incredibly sensitive sense of smell with high stamina and relatively low cost, tracking and sniffer dogs are becoming fundamental for anti-poaching activity. Within protected areas dogs are used to track poachers from crime scenes and intercept them before exiting an area, enabling swift enforcement action. Sniffer dogs, used by anti-trafficking and customs officials, are instrumental in uncovering many wildlife products including skins, bones, ivory, rhino horn, birds - even timber. Dogs can be a powerful deterrent, especially when their use is strategically aligned with trade intelligence information to deploy increased numbers in well-known transit hot-spots.
The use of metal traps and snares has become the most widespread method of poaching. Deep Search Metal Detectors aid enforcement staff in finding those traps and snares planted by poachers that elude the human eye. DSMDs are ideal for remote field operations because they are robust, simple to assemble and use, and do not require complicated maintenance or handling. Detectors can also be used during post-mortem examinations to see if snared animals have bullet wounds. This helps strengthen legal follow up and should lead to more effective prosecutions for poaching.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, otherwise known as drones, are particularly useful in large conservation areas with challenging terrain. Increasingly used in a variety of conservation scenarios, UAVs can transmit real time camera feedback, or high definition photo sets, which help protected area managers and enforcement staff identify poaching camps or movements. With this information patrols can be strategically adjusted to increase probability of finding and intercepting criminal activity.
The Internet has become a lucrative new marketplace for illegal wildlife traders. Routine website surveillance is an additional method of uncovering wildlife and forest offences. This typically involves methodically examining online advertisements for fauna and flora, including animal and plant parts and material. In addition to surveying regular sites, it is important to make inroads in understanding and combating the illegal wildlife trade being conducted on TOR hidden browsers, or Dark Web services.
Given the amount and complexity of mobile services and products, anti-poaching efforts should include using tools that analyze cellular messaging patterns to target criminal networks. It is important to understand existing tools that allow for data and pattern analysis, as well as the means through which phones (through GPS or frequent signals to network towers) can be used to legally track suspected poachers.