This is the third installment in a three-part guest blog series by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. This post is by the Smart Patrol. Check out the other two posts about two endangered species, the kiwi bird and Panamanian Golden Frog.
Protecting the tigers living in national parks and other protected areas across the 13 tiger-range countries is a big job – and it requires coordination between responsible government agencies international development and enforcement bodies, and nongovernmental conservation groups. As part of the Global Tiger Initiative, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s (SCBI) Tiger Conservation Partnership works with all of those entities to protect tigers from poaching, habitat loss and other threats. The largest effort that SCBI has led with its partners over the past two years has focused on training.
Several training courses were developed by SCBI and its partners, at the request of tiger-range countries, to help patrol teams monitor their protected areas as effectively as possible. The courses specifically introduced protected area management teams (the teams included managers and rangers) from different countries to smart patrolling. Smart patrolling, also known as law enforcement monitoring, is a method of monitoring activity within a national park, reserve or any other protected area using global positioning system devices in the field, and then uploading data recorded in the field to a software called Management Information System (MIST). Each course included an introduction to enforcement best practices and technology in a classroom setting, and a practical portion, which allowed all the participants to practice using the technology in the field.
During the courses they practiced recording signs of poaching, encroachment, legal human activity, tigers and tiger prey in the field using GPS devices while on patrol. When the teams returned to their protected areas and started collecting data using GPS devices, their
data would then be given to their patrol headquarters. Patrol headquarters in each country would then take the information and convert it into maps using MIST. The maps help managers identify hotspots of illegal activity, as well as safer areas, where they can increase or decrease the intensity of their enforcement interventions.
The most recent courses were held in Thailand and Nepal. The January 2011 course in Thailand was held in Bangkok and the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary with Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the World Bank Institute and others. Teams from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam traveled to Thailand for the training. The February 2012 training course was held in Kathmandu and Chitwan National Park. SCBI’s Tiger Conservation Partnership worked with Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, the National Trust for Nature Conservation, the World Wildlife Fund, the World Bank Institute and other partners. Teams from Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Russia attended the course in Nepal.
The training courses were designed to help much more than just the teams that came to the training. When the teams finished their training they were experts in smart patrolling. They returned to their protected areas and shared what they had learned with the rest of their colleagues. So the information from the courses reached many more people than just the teams that attended them. In addition, through a competitive process, SCBI provided follow up grants to teams from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bangladesh, Nepal Trust for Nature Conservation, and WCS in Laos and Thailand, working with the responsible government agency in each country, to adapt the training to national conditions and translate it into local languages. The teams are now working on implementing smart patrolling in their protected areas, which will help reduce incidents of poaching and support other initiatives dedicated to cracking down on wildlife trafficking. SCBI’s Tiger Conservation Partnership keeps in touch with the teams that attended the training courses through a listserv, and encourages rangers or managers to ask questions that they have through it. The training courses and listserv have helped foster a sense of community between SCBI and its many partners around the world, and are helping to protect tigers.
During the rest of 2012 and early 2013, SCBI’s Tiger Conservation Partnership will be working on a comprehensive curriculum for protected area management, the Core Learning Program, covering not only Smart Patrolling but also an integrated series of other topics essential for protected areas with tigers. As part of this effort, SCBI is joining a consortium of non-governmental organizations which are developing an enhanced law enforcement monitoring system called SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Resource Tool) which is designed to replace MIST with a more powerful, yet easy to implement system. In addition, two tiger-range countries, Bangladesh and Malaysia, have been selected for intensive additional work to develop a Pilot National Program designed to address all of the countries’ capacity building needs identified in their respective National Tiger Recovery Priorities. Field testing of the new Core Learning courses will also be part of these pilot programs. SCBI is also providing financial assistance to the new South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network – complementing startup funding provided by
the State Department and other donors – to enhance cross-border wildlife enforcement.
This entry reflects the author’s personal judgments and does not represent the views of the United States Government or the Department of State.