Members of the Survival Wisdom Team set off in early January to conduct trials of equipment as part of the Maya2020.co.uk project.
The trials team consisted of: Richard, Christian and Chris from the MAYA team. In addition Topher White and Lawrence from the Rainforest Connect organisation https://rfcx.org/. Topher White the San Francisco based CEO, Founder and Inventor of the "Guardian", an acoustic sensor specifically designed for forest and habitat conservation. The team deployed to teach the fundamental skills, to utilise this incredible asset, which is made and designed to use sustainable, recycled materials including mobile phones!
The training involved a basic understanding of the technology, the dashboard that control the sensors, its capabilities, and how to install them. (which involves a bit of tree climbing!!)
The Guardian sensors are part of the Teams "Holistic Forest Management Strategy" which forms the core principle, to our approach to Forest Protection. The capability will give Rangers the ability to make crucial decisions remotely, firstly to safeguard themselves from coming into contact with illegal personnel within the park. Secondly to build an intelligence picture and pattern, to take appropriate action required to counter threats. Thirdly the sensors will also detect and record bird and animal behaviour, with algorithms and data sets allowing researchers to listen in to rare species of birds going about their every day life, this can then monetise the data and provide finance for the park or reserve.
Talking to Rangers in the field some of the main threats they face are from illegal Poaching of the Scarlet Macauw and illegal gold mining in the more remote mountainous areas. The poachers will travel up to 100km on foot to capture young fledgling birds, which are then taken back across boarders and exported from throughout Central and North America, into the thriving illegal pet trade.
The team once mastered the technology were shown in a "safe environment how to set up and establish the sensors and initial operational testing. The system is very user friendly and even an "old technophobe" can understand and master!
The RFCX guys then took us to the private reserve, to set out the sensors. The positioning of sensors requires considerable effort to get them in the appropriate trees and involves climbing 80-100 ft trees! The RFCX crew selected locations in the reserve, with suitably positioned tree species, which cover the main threat areas to the reserve. This particular reserve, are facing problems with encroachment of adjacent farmland and illegal poaching of birds and animals.
The team then went through basic tree rope access training and were demonstrated the techniques required to access and position the sensors. The team learnt a lot from Topher and Lawrence and got a real sense of how physically difficult this is to achieve, also the logistics required to establish the sensors in remote forest regions. It was then our turn to have a go! First phase we got to fire the enormous catapult which was fun, to get the climbing ropes into position and then prepare kit for the climb. Some of the team found it easier than others, and I certainly found the technique extremely difficult, there's a temptation to try and use your arms which can be extremely hard to hall my old 50+ body skyward!!!
The sensors we have installed, are operational and are currently transmitting live feeds to the Ranger team on site and the project team in the UK. The sensors are detecting chainsaws, vehicle movement and hundreds of animals and bird species within the reserve. All this data is being transmitted straight to monitoring teams within the reserve so they can act upon any illegal activities. Here is a video of its effectiveness and amazing use.
The team are now working to integrate this data platform into the latest satellite data dashboard provided by a UK based organisation. This capability will give us the ability to get updated satellite imagery of the park or protected areas every 6 days, using the European Space Agencies Sentinel satellite. This dashboard can then be used to provide other sensor overlays, to build up a complete picture of the protected areas from a Laptopin an HQ or Ranger Android phone.
Concurently with this work the survivalwisdom.com team have managed to get a tracking dog and to the Friends for Conservation Ranger team. The dog and training have been provided by a US donation to the animalssavinganimals.org charity. The lead trainer Daryll Pleasants deployed the FCD's first female Ranger, Sara. Who is an 18 month old, Belgian Mallinois tracking and alert dog. Thanks also to my good friend Giles Clark and the team at the Big Cat Sanctuary for their donation and support, which has gone to build Sara's new home in Belize https://thebigcatsanctuary.org/
Sara will be a huge game changer in the tracking and detection of illegal poachers in the Chiquibul National Park. The capabilities that a trained tracking dog are incredible, and they will really help to protect the Rangers from, chance encounters with armed poachers. Daryll and his team are training two Senior Rangers, as handlers and I will keep you updated on how she's settling into the Ranger team in the Chiquibul.
In summary it has been a great start to 2020, with the live trial in place, further equipment and detection assets are being prepared in the UK, ready for a further deployment out to Belize to install equipment, and provide training for Rangers to help counter their ongoing threats.
The project has been supported by the Oak Foundation https://oakfnd.org/ and Rainforest Concern https://www.rainforestconcern.org/ So our thanks to both these organisations for your help and support and setting us on the road to completing this concept and program.
I would like to pass on my personal thanks to all individuals and organisations that have supported us! The project has taken 5 years of work by the team and their belief in what we are doing, is bringing our dream, which is to help protect endangered habitats around the globe! Thank You!!
Richard Pyshorn FRGS Director - Survivalwisdom.com
For Further information about the project please contact the Survival Wisdom Team, we can provide links to our partners and we are particularly interested in linking schools to our work and resources!
Contact the team on Mob:07854149475 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org