Newswise — A systematic patrol system called the “Smart” program has become a vital component in the protection of tigers, elephants, and other wildlife species in the forests of Thailand, according to scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society at a wildlife trafficking symposium in London this week.
Implemented in 2005 in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex (WEFCOM), the Smart patrol now serves as an example of how such systems can effectively protect wildlife, said Anak Pattanavibool, Director of WCS’s Thailand Program at the International Wildlife Trafficking Symposium on Tuesday morning.
Pattanavibool is one of many wildlife experts lecturing on the importance of both on-the-ground enforcement and international policy solutions to the threat of illegal wildlife poaching and trade to the world’s natural ecosystems.
“Protecting Thailand’s tigers and elephants against poachers—many of whom are armed and well-financed—is a risky business,” said Pattanvibool. “The measurable benefits of the Smart patrol to guide enforcement actions have given park guards validation and added confidence in their duties.”
The aim of the Smart system—a suite of patrol methods and measurement technology—is to incorporate science into enforcement efforts in WEFCOM, one of the last strongholds for tigers and elephants in Southeast Asia. The program also tracks both the intensity of threats to wildlife as well as the performance of patrol teams.
Pattanavibool explained that, over the past decade, the Smart program has helped conservationists identify the key elements needed to run an efficient enforcement program. The elements include: adequate numbers of patrol staff; good equipment and support; high-quality training; standardized law enforcement monitoring, which utilizes the newly developed SMART software, a free, publicly available software application that tracks wildlife poaching activity; a strong intelligence network to help guide patrols; and the integration of law enforcement data with planning and deployment of patrols.
Smart patrols have achieved a significant degree of success since the program’s implementation, enabling a force of more than 500 rangers to effectively patrol an area some 6,400 square kilometers in size. As a result of data-driven enforcement, park rangers were able to quickly detect tiger and elephant poaching operating in forests. Subsequent arrests of poachers also enabled law enforcement authorities to uncover a regional poaching network.
“Smart is playing a vital role in saving wildlife in Thailand, where the most recent data reveal that tiger numbers and distribution may actually be increasing as a result of targeted patrols,” said Pattanavibool. “The system has become a model approach for protecting wildlife across Southeast Asia.”