Kenya set to deploy anti-poaching technology

2013-03-28 10:37:43 GMT2013-03-28 18:37:43(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has announced plans to deploy a free software tool for rangers specifically designed to stop rising poaching in the East African nation.

The new Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART 1.0) was developed through a partnership of conservation organizations such as CITES-MIKE, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the North Carolina Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London.

"We at KWS are eager to implement SMART across our protected areas as we clearly see the huge potential it has in helping our managers better monitor and evaluate law enforcement efforts," KWS Senior Scientist in charge of Rhino Program, Benson Okita-Ouma said according to a statement received in Nairobi on Thursday.

"The SMART tool and framework will help our staff to make better informed decisions for protecting and managing our rich biodiversity particularly at a time of increasing poaching pressure," he added.

The conservationists have decried the entry of organized crime syndicates into the illegal wildlife trade, most notably of rhino horn and elephant ivory, which they said, has created a crisis situation in many African countries.

The KWS on its part has expressed fears that the scenes of 1970s and 80s when poaching was a serious menace, and contributed to the depletion of wildlife including elephants, lions and rhinos are back, are threatening many years of conservation efforts and animal populations that had started to balloon.

More than 1,000 rhinoceros, an all-time high, have been poached in the last three years, and current poaching of elephants is documented to be the highest since the 1980s.

The illegal poaching of wildlife for commercial purposes is also decimating many more species.

SMART 1.0 is an innovative management tool designed to assist rangers on the ground to stop poachers in their tracks and curb the illegal trade of wildlife. SMART isn't owned by any one individual or organization; it's free and available to the whole conservation community.

It's also a combination of software, training materials, and implementation standards which provide protected area authorities and community groups with the ability to empower staff, boost motivation, increase efficiency, and promote credible and transparent monitoring of the effectiveness of anti-poaching efforts.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)'s Asian Species Expert, Barney Long said the new tool was crucial as traditional approaches to stopping poaching had failed.

"The launch of SMART could not come at a better time as 177 nations gather in Thailand at the CITES last week to make decisions aimed at stopping the illegal trade of wildlife," Long said.

"This vital tool will help the eco-guards on the frontlines of conservation get out ahead of the poachers and protect the most iconic species on our planet. Without SMART, the poachers will remain more sophisticated, which we cannot let happen."

The groups developed SMART in response to the recognition that traditional approaches, technologies, and resources are not stemming the illegal killing and trading of endangered species – such as tigers, rhinos, elephants, great apes, and marine turtles - - and the resulting loss of threatened and highly valued biodiversity.

A critical issue is the growing gap between the sophistication of those involved in the illegal capture and trade in wildlife, and the number, skill levels, and motivation of the personnel committed to enforcing anti-poaching laws.

The partnership members intend to promote it across their project areas around the world. This will provide SMART with a very powerful foundation for sustainable, long-term growth and ensure widespread adoption, leading to consistent, comparable and effective datasets.

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