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STALKING TIGERS, SAVING SPECIES

The blog of Tiger Conservation Partnership participants, staff and experts.

March 15

Our final installment in our series following teams who attended Regional Smart Patrol Training courses for tiger conservation in 2012 features the team from Bhutan. Mr. Rinchen Dorji a park ranger in Thrumshingla National Park, Ura shares his update from his team.

What has happened in your protected area in the past year after you participated in the Regional SMART Patrol Trainings?

Attending the training on Regional Smart Patrolling last year in Nepal has made a big difference in the capacity to individual staff members, and to the organization as a whole. After coming back from the training, I identified our patrol routes using the Google maps. Later we patrolled using the SMART patrol system. The team apprehended seven offenders, who were illegally harvesting timber. They were fined according to the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules of 2006.

We have not encountered evidence of any other illegal activity, including poaching within the western park range area. As a result we identified patrol routes within the western park area which can be easily monitored. We also identified the most susceptible area to illegal activities like timber harvesting and poaching. The field staffs use the standard patrolling format for reporting their patrol reports.

As per my plan, we wanted to cover the whole park but due to lack of funds, we haven’t been able to. Mr. Kesang and I have given input from the SMART patrol training our to field staff to ensure they continue to learn about the software.

What did you find the most useful at the training that you attended?

I found that overall the training materials were very useful once we are in the field, but I personally find that the equipment (camera and GPS) are greatly helping all of my activities in the field. This equipment is mandatory for the frontline staff because it plays a major role in collecting reliable data and information for future planning. The equipment can also be used to collect information about species other than tigers. I am planning to collect information on the butterflies of Thrumshingla National Park using SMART patrol equipment.

What were the most limiting factors of using SMART?

Since apprehending the offenders and imposing fines, we have seen a decrease in the illegal harvest of timber in the western part of the park. We hope that in the next year if we secure additional funding we can expand our SMART patrol program to the entire park.

How have things changed in your protected area? What do you think will change in 2013?

The implementation of any activities in the park is limited by the inability of a donor agency to provide additional funding to expand SMART patrol efforts and facilities to store the necessary equipment for the patrol.

What kind of additional support (financial, technical or others) have you received from outside sources to management your protected area (like the implementing SMART patrol) and from whom?

Last year, Dr. Mahindra asked us to submit a budget proposal and we did, but we couldn’t secure the funds to expand the program. As of right now, we have not received funding from any donors to implement SMART patrol more widely. The additional funding is necessary to fully implement SMART patrol.

February 22

The latest installment in our series following teams who attended Regional Smart Patrol Training courses for tiger conservation in 2012 features the team from China. Ying Li, project assistant for Wildlife Conservation Society in China compiled the responses to the questions below on behalf of the team.

What has happened in your protected area in the past year after you participated in the Regional SMART Patrol Trainings?

We have started implementing SMART patrol, which has caught the attention of the State Forestry Administration and the Forestry Department of Jilin province. Hunchun is going to be the SMART patrol pilot nature reserve. It will lead all other nature reserves in the implementing SMART patrol.

A SMART patrol training was held in Jilin province in Hunchun in August 2012 by the Jilin Forestry Department and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Five other nature reserves with important tiger habitats also attended the training.

Camera traps captured 50 photos of leopards and tigers, which suggests that the training did help with conservation efforts.

In the past year a continuous effort has been made to remove snares from Hunchun Nature Reserve.

What did you find the most useful at the training that you attended?

The technical aspects of the SMART software, especially the forms to fill out, helped with daily patrols. The part of the course dedicated to leadership and connecting the network of protected areas to each other helps us do a better job protecting all of our areas.

How have things changed in your protected area? What do you think will change in 2013?

In 2012 SMART Patrol was incorporated in to the yearly work plan of Hunchun Nature Reserve, and the evaluation of performance for the employees. In 2013 we think SMART Patrol funding will increase as well as the workload of the patrol plan. However, that will strengthen the monitoring and science research for the Amur tiger and leopard.

What were the most limiting factors of using SMART?

The foundation for SMART Patrol is not consistent enough. The data collected from SMART patrols are not fully used to influence conservation. There is no way to evaluate the quality of data obtained from SMART patrol, which seems to be the most important part of collecting the data.

What kind of additional support (financial, technical or others) have you received from outside sources to management your protected area (like the implementing SMART patrol) and from whom?

We get financial and technical support from WCS.

February 14

The latest installment in our series following teams who attended Regional Smart Patrol Training courses for tiger conservation in 2012 features the team from Indonesia. Andhika Chandra Ariyanto, Forest Ecosystem Specialist, Kerinci Seblat National Park, compiled the responses for the team.

What has happened in your protected area in the past year after you participated in the Regional SMART Patrol Trainings?

The new concept of SMART Patrol and MIST was presented to the protected area manager and his deputies. There are several potential sources for support in terms of human resources. We will be recruiting more forest guards and Tiger Protection and Conservation Unit (TPCU) in the Kerinci Seblat National Park (KSNP).

What did you find the most useful at the training that you attended?

The Leadership and Practical session (or field patrol with HKK rangers) was very useful.

How have things changed in your protected area? What do you think will change in 2013?

TPCUs have been implementing the SMART patrol system over the past year. In 2013 we shall start using the SMART system. However, we are still struggling to find a way to incorporate the SMART Patrol system into our existing patrol system.

What were the most limiting factors, if any?

The MIST software is unstable and often encounters errors while we are working with it.

KSNP is a huge national park. We often found bugs and errors with the coordinate system, especially when KSNP is split into two UTM zones. In order to overcome these issues we have to use geographic (latitude and longitude) coordinates. Moreover, we need more complete insturctions detailing how to upload GPS data into the MIST software because TPCU’s members are not familiar with Latitude and Longitude coordinates.

What kind of additional support (financial, technical or other) have you received from outside sources to help manage your protected area, including the implementing SMART patrol, and from whom?

Fauna and Flora International (FFI) held SMART patrol and MIST training for TPCUs members who also are KSNP rangers and a few field staff members.

In addition to that Forum HarimauKita and its NGO partners have approached the Indonesian government (Ministry of Forestry Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation) agencies in North and Central Sumatra to schedule a collaborative training on SMART Patrol System in the third week of February.

February 6

This is the second installment in our series following teams who attended Regional Smart Patrol Training courses for tiger conservation in 2012. The answers below are from Pradeep Khanal, TAL Field Project Officer, WWF Nepal on behalf of his team from Nepal. Stay tuned for responses from other teams.

What has happened in your protected area in the past year since you participated in the Regional SMART Patrol Training?

We have more effectively implemented MIST [Management Information System] in BNP. Park officers now can customize the format according to their needs.

What did you find the most useful part at the training that you attended?

The practical course and the direct access to experts.

How have things changed in your protected area? What do you think will change in 2013?

In Bardia National Park (BNP), we now have monthly MIST output briefings. That helps our patrol planning for the following month.

What were the most limiting factors of MIST?

The MIST software sometimes gives us trouble and doesn't function correctly.

What kind of additional support (financial, technical or other) have you received from outside sources in the management of your protected area, such as the implementation of SMART patrol, and from whom?

We receieved financial and technical support from WWF Nepal, logistical support from the National Trust for Nature Conservation/Biodiversity Conservation Program and implementation support from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

January 28

Recently we asked the teams who attended our Regional Smart Patrol Training courses for Tiger Conservation in Thailand and Nepal what has happened in their protected areas in the year since. Olga Arifulina, one of the team members from Russia sent us an update on behalf of her team.

What has happened in your protected area in the past year after your participation in the Regional SMART Patrol Trainings?

The reserve inspections patrol the territory more effectively because the program [Management Information System (MIST)] actually shows us where the inspectors have been and what they have done. The reports documenting their patrols are much more accurate as a result.

What was the most useful part of the training that you attended?

The most useful part of the training was the SMART patrol course where we practiced using GPS devices and taking photos in the field.

How have things changed in your protected area? What do you think will change in 2013?

The SMART patrol system accurately tells us where and when it is possible to stop any nature protection violations. This year inspectors are planning to carry out spot-checks with representatives from the police and hunting service.

What are the most difficult or limiting factors of SMART?

The biggest limiting factors for us are frequent failures or crashes of the SMART computer program. During the winter it is also very difficult to patrol with GPS. When the temperature is -15 degrees Celcius the batteries in the GPS freeze.

What kind of additional support have you received from outside sources in the management of your protected area?

We have received some support from non-commercial Russian and foreign organizations such as the Pheonix Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society. Their support helps us purchase fuels , lubricant oils, overalls, spare parts and communication facilities.

2012

December 21

The new Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) system being developed by WCS, WWF, ZSL, North Carolina Zoo, Frankfurt Zoological Society, and CITES/MIKE will enhance the law enforcement and monitoring in conservation areas. SMART is easier and more user-friendly than Management Information System (MIST), which is what frontline practitioners have been using while on patrol. SMART will gradually replace MIST in the field. The first global scale SMART training was held in South Africa last September. That training was especially for people who will be teaching others to use it. Representatives from the organizations involved with developing the software attended the training.

A briefing for partner organizations on the status and scope of SMART was organized Nov. 1, at WWF-US. A SMART Training Workshop was organized in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand in November.

SMART workshop

SMART Training workshop.

I participated in the first SMART training workshop to test the beta version of the software. The workshop was hosted by the Department of National Parks and WCS Thailand. I found the SMART system more user-friendly and flexible compared to MIST and easy to learn. It still collects pretty much the same patrol information. However, SMART provides a lot of options and flexibility for analysis, patrol queries, summaries, reports, maps, tables and charts for different levels of users (administrator, manager, analyst, and data entry).

For example, it easily evaluates patrol performance (per team or per guard post/station), monitoring threats, impact of law enforcement management, effectiveness of enforcement, etc. It has the necessary flexibility to tailor data in a way that is relevant to individual conservation areas. You don’t need to be a geographic information system expert to use SMART, which means you don’t need to constantly switch back-and-forth from using SMART and GIS.

GPS coordinates can be directly downloaded to the system. Unlike MIST, you can log multiple observations for one waypoint avoiding creation of a separate waypoint for each observation. A built-in species list that you can add or inactivate as needed, recording multi-leg patrol data (e.g., splitting of one team to take a separate patrol route as needed and merging again together), and export the report with map, chart, and other queries in one package for others to view. It will also allow you to develop add-on tools as needed.

We detected some bugs in the software during the workshop which are being fixed by the system developers. SMART will be available in 5 different languages (possibly Thai, Bahasa, Russian, French, and Spanish) when its full option V 1.0 is available in January 2013. Additional features like modules on intelligence and planning, finalized gridded analysis, new faster data entry format, help files, and localization with ability to use multiple languages will be added. A coordinated approach will be made by partners to the governments for the adoption of this system in conservation areas. SMART will be open source and available to anybody.

You can learn more about SMART and write them directly with questions. More SMART Training Workshops are being planned in TRCs in the near future to train national and site focal points on its use and begin to build up a regional SMART community and facilitate implementations.

—Mahendra Shrestha, program director, Tiger Conservation Partnership

November 30

Under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the State Department has declared Dec.4, Wildlife Conservation Day. Wildlife Conservation Day aims to promote the conservation and protection of endangered species (specifically elephants, rhinos and tigers); raise awareness about the security, economic, and environmental effects of wildlife poaching and trafficking; highlight the connection between wildlife trafficking and national security;discourage consumer demand; and demonstrate efforts by citizens, activists, private corporations, and governments to bring an end to the illicit wildlife trade.

U.S. Embassies, consulates and information offices around the world will be hosting activities to educate the public, especially youth and potential wildlife product consumers, about wildlife trafficking issues and other major conservation challenges in their region.

The Wildlife Conservation Day declaration followed the unprecedented gathering of diplomats and conservationists, including representatives from the Smithsonian and our Tiger Conservation Partnership, at the Partnership Meeting on Wildlife Trafficking hosted by the U.S. Department of State Nov. 8, in Washington, D.C. Secretary Clinton expressed her commitment to supporting solutions to end the illicit wildlife trade. In her keynote address Secretary Clinton emphasized the value of developing a global consensus at the highest political levels for wildlife protection; building scientific partnerships; and increasing efforts to make any use of endangered species products socially and personally reprehensible. Furthermore, the State Department has issued a grant of $100,000 to develop a Global Wildlife Enforcement Network to link existing regional networks such as ASEAN-WEN and SAWEN.

Support from the highest levels of government is desperately needed to combat the illicit wildlife trade worth $7 to 10 billion annualy. Criminals responsible for poaching endangered species like rhino, elephants and tigers for their valuable parts are part of organized illegal trafficking operations that threaten the security of many countries. Each new country that declares support for conservation issues increases the chances of survival for elephants, rhinos, tigers and their cultural heritages.

We hope you will keep the momentum going and join us Dec. 4, in celebrating Wildlife Conservation Day. Share your Wildlife Conservation Day activities on the Tiger Conservation Partnership’s Facebook page.