28 October 2015 | Wildlife Conservation Society News Release
New York – Bangladesh’s tigers and dolphins have gotten SMART.
Efforts to fight forestry and fisheries crime in Bangladesh were recently strengthened with the training of frontline field staff of the Bangladesh Forest Department in the use of SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool), a conservation tool for improving the effectiveness of patrols to protect threatened terrestrial and aquatic wildlife.
Plans are underway to expand SMART to three Wildlife Sanctuaries for Freshwater Dolphins in the Eastern Sundarbans, according to WCS.
The SMART Partnership includes WCS, CITES-Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE), Frankfurt Zoological Society, North Carolina Zoological Park, Panthera, Peace Parks Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, and Zoological Society of London. The tool was launched in March 2013 and has been implemented at 140 sites across 30 countries worldwide. Bangladesh is one of the first countries to pilot SMART in a World Heritage Area.
A total of 26 staff from the Bangladesh Forest Department completed an intensive 3-day technical training on strengthening patrols in the Wildlife Sanctuaries for Freshwater Dolphins and the SMART Approach to law enforcement monitoring. The training course, which was funded by WCS and the Austrian Government through the LifeWeb Initiative, provided a vital opportunity to develop the skills of forest rangers and guards, and raise their capacity for protecting important populations of dolphins, tigers and other threatened wildlife in the Sundarbans.
“We are delighted to see our front-line staff in the Sundarbans gain an understanding about the importance of collecting patrolling data, and learn how to best use the information to protect wildlife including dolphins and tigers,” said Dr. Sunil Kumar Kundu, Conservator of Forests, Khulna Circle. “The SMART patrolling approach will help us to better combat poaching, illegal fishing, vessel and pollution infractions, and other forest crimes. It will ensure the survival of Bangladesh’s forests and wildlife for future generations.”
The SMART Approach is a user-friendly combination of software, training materials, and implementation standards. Designed for use in front-line enforcement, SMART meets the needs of managers by providing access to information and easy to understand maps about the conservation area and the locations of threats. SMART facilitates the rapid input of ranger-based data on patrolling routes and the locations of forest and fisheries crime. This will allow the Forest Department to use sophisticated analyses for improved patrol planning and evaluate if patrols are successfully protecting wildlife. Patrolling data from SMART can be summarized and reported in ways that are useful to managers. These reports will strengthen the ability of conservation programs to combat wildlife poaching and other illegal activities. SMART empowers managers to plan a strategic response to forest crime and protected area enforcement.
Mr. Brian Smith, Director of the WCS Asian Freshwater and Coastal Cetacean Program and leader of the training program, said: “SMART is far better at collecting patrolling data than previous systems which lacked flexibility and did not fully meet the needs of protected areas in Bangladesh.”
Dr. Antony Lynam, Regional Advisor for WCS–Asia Programs who has assisted the Bangladesh Forest Department in two other training exercises for frontline staff since October 2014, said: “SMART can manage data on wildlife, forest, and fisheries crime collected by government staff, local communities and wildlife monitoring teams. It provides users with accurate information on current threats, hotspots of illegal activities, and enforcement efforts and strategies. The software helps managers develop protection plans, make effective decisions, and implement conservation strategies tailored to the challenges of their specific area.”
As part of the rollout of the SMART Approach in Bangladesh, the system has been piloted in the Western Sundarbans Sanctuary. Mr. Zahir Uddin Ahmed, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Western Sundarbans, explained the benefits of the SMART Approach: “Making decisions on how to manage wildlife and direct resources for forest protection is made easier by having my field teams trained in the collection of field data. This information helps us identify threat hotspots and places where resources need to be allocated to deal with those threats.”
Mr. Sayedul Islam, DFO Eastern Sundarbans added: “SMART patrolling is particularly well suited for implementation in the Wildlife Sanctuaries for Freshwater Dolphins in the Eastern Sundarbans due to the greater human impact from tourism and fisheries in this area. If well managed, both of these activities can benefit local people but if the rules and regulations designed to protect the forest and its waterways are not followed these activities could result in the loss of our country’s wildlife heritage including tigers and freshwater dolphins.”
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