New Technology Transforms Protected Area Management, aided by North Carolina Zoo

Anti-Poaching

Efforts to combat poaching of wildlife in Asia, Africa and Latin America have just gotten smarter with the release of a powerful new extension to the widely adopted Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) from the SMART Partnership. Called SMART Connect, the new technology allows rangers and conservation area managers to exchange critical information and transmit data in real time. SMART Connect delivers a revolutionary suite of services improving access to data for park staff and managers on pressing issues such as poaching and human wildlife conflict.
SMART Connect expands the capabilities of the existing SMART anti-poaching software, developed by the North Carolina Zoo and other conservation organizations under the auspices of the SMART Partnership. This collaboration is made up of nine global conservation organizations including the North Carolina Zoo, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Global Wildlife Conservation, Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Protection Solutions, World Wildlife Fund, and the Zoological Society of London. Originally designed primarily as a desktop application to combat wildlife poaching, SMART is a widely adopted, community-owned, and open-source conservation software tool.
Poaching of wildlife has become a global crisis. Countless species, ranging from iconic elephants to little-known forest tortoises and beyond, are victim to the crisis and driven closer to extinction. Protected areas rely on highly skilled and dedicated guards, rangers and managers and are critically important to efforts to conserve these species. However, many lack adequate enforcement capacity and/or systematic monitoring programs that can adaptively inform their management. Conservation practitioners and protected area managers need these data on the occurrence and distribution of wildlife, threats, and protection efforts, in order to make effective decisions on the deployment of the limited resources at their disposal.
Since its release, SMART has been adopted at more than 500 terrestrial and marine sites in 46 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and has rapidly become the global standard for conservation law enforcement and protected area monitoring. With the continued support of the global SMART community, the SMART Partnership aims to ensure that SMART continues to meet the emerging and expanding needs of the conservation community, and that critical information and protection management systems are put in place to facilitate strategic and well-informed approaches to managing conservation areas.
“SMART has really been a game-changer for conservation efforts around the world,” said Dr. Rich Bergl, Director of Conservation, Education and Science at the North Carolina Zoo. “We have helped set up SMART-based anti-poaching programs in multiple countries across Africa over the past several years and have seen real improvements in protection of wildlife as a result. Our involvement with the creation and deployment of SMART is just one example of how the North Carolina Zoo is helping to protect endangered species in the wild.”
With SMART Connect, the new cloud-based extension to SMART, the ease and quickness with which users can translate patrol efforts in the field into actionable data for improving conservation practice at their site(s) is greatly enhanced. Connect facilitates data capture in as close to real time as a site’s infrastructure allows, making it possible for rangers to manage and respond to real-time threats. It also allows for integration of SMART data with data from other sources (e.g., Global Forest Watch) and other commonly used field sensors, such as remote camera traps, allowing for more a comprehensive understanding of complex site dynamics. Connect also facilitates information sharing of data, maps, and reports across entire protected area or landscape networks. The software also enables access to SMART data by those in key decision-making roles regarding the deployment of conservation resources. These added functionalities make SMART Connect an unparalleled tactical, operational and analytical tool for protecting wildlife and wild places.
“The uptake of SMART Connect has been incredible,” said Jonathan Palmer, SMART Chief Technology Officer and Executive Director of Strategic Technology at New York’s Wildlife Conservation Society. “In the pilot phase alone, nearly a third of the countries using SMART have implemented SMART Connect, encompassing more than 250 sites across Africa, Asia and Latin America, targeting the deployment of patrolling teams to where they have the greatest impact.”
In a number of pilot cases, SMART Connect has already facilitated more efficient data management, real-time data capture and analysis, and adaptive decision-making. For example, the Belize Fisheries Department has created a centralized SMART Connect database that automatically compiles all data from Fisheries Officers and Rangers in the Marine Protected Areas system. In the Philippines, currently the largest-scale national deployment of SMART, data are collected in nearly 200 different conservation areas using mobile devices and sent back wirelessly to a national SMART Connect database.
“We have integrated SMART into the Forest and Biodiversity Protection System for the Philippines,” said Nonito M. Tamayo, director of the Forest Management Bureau in the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “SMART Connect greatly contributes to the system for it aids our decision makers in analyzing and visualizing data gathered from the field for developing policies and management interventions toward sustainable forest management.”
Developing and setting up SMART, and now SMART Connect, is part of the North Carolina Zoo’s mission to protect wildlife around the world and here in North Carolina. This work solves conservation challenges and connects the people of North Carolina to nature and animals across the globe.
About the North Carolina Zoo
The North Carolina Zoo provides an experience like no other zoo anywhere. With five miles of exhibits, nearly 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants it is the largest natural habitat zoo in the world and an international leader in wildlife conservation.
Find yourself surrounded by some of Africa’s giants including elephants, rhinos, and giraffes; share the love of gorillas with Mosuba and his six-member troop; watch polar bears Nikita and Anana take polar plunges every day at their Rocky Coast Exhibit; or join in the fun at the mud café in the Kidzone.
Located in the center of the state in Asheboro, it is convenient to visit from anywhere in North Carolina and surrounding states. The North Carolina Zoo welcomes over 850,000 guests each year. Plan your adventure at www.nczoo.org.
About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (NCDNCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s natural and cultural resources to build the social, cultural, educational and economic future of North Carolina. NCDNCR’s mission is to improve the quality of life in our state by creating opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history, libraries and nature in North Carolina by stimulating learning, inspiring creativity, preserving the state’s history, conserving the state’s natural heritage, encouraging recreation and cultural tourism, and promoting economic development.
NCDNCR includes 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, two science museums, three aquariums and Jennette’s Pier, 39 state parks and recreation areas, the N.C. Zoo, the nation’s first state-supported Symphony Orchestra, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, State Preservation Office and the Office of State Archaeology, along with the Division of Land and Water Stewardship. For more information, please call (919) 807-7300 or visit www.ncdcr.gov.

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