Protected Area management effectiveness improvements are critical to protecting threatened species in such areas. The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) - the design and implementation of which, SOS has supported since its launch in 2012 - is one such development.
SMART is playing a key role in an increasing number of conservation efforts worldwide including those in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Okapi Faunal Reserve (OFR) where SOS is supporting monitoring and law enforcement work implemented by IUCN Member the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Project coordinator Robert Mwinyihali reports that improvements in patrolling following an analysis of SMART data in August 2014 were significant. Patrol coverage increased from 11% of the Reserve between March and June 2014 to 36% in September-October 2014.
Additionally, the effectiveness of the new patrol system was clearly demonstrated with the arrest of several poachers, seizure of 7 weapons, and recovery of almost 50 kilogrammes of ivory at the end of November 2014. Additionally, some 5,000 illegal miners were evacuated from the Reserve in November and December.
Training for patrollers and management personnel is key to unleashing the power of a technology like SMART, nevertheless. Recording and crunching the data is helpful, but making incisive decisions based on that information is equally important.
Such was the case for the OFR managers, allowing them to evaluate monitoring methods and change them as necessary. Additionally, SMART also enabled OFR managers to assess individual performance during patrols and consequently improve the bonuses paid to rangers on an objective basis. Together, these changes will allow the team to better protect OFR’s rich biodiversity.
"We are able to organize well-coordinated patrols in the Reserve be it from headquarters or from all different patrol posts. Therefore we know exactly the efforts made by each ranger individually and by the team as a group when rangers are back from the forest” explains Benjamin Kalimutima, head of the anti-poaching unit in the OFR and one of the trained SMART officers.
This rich biodiversity of the OFR (13,726 sq km2) is facing a number of threats, including elephant poaching, commercial bush-meat hunting, and deforestation due to unsustainable agricultural practices and illegal mining.
Since 2003 a number of successive management and monioring tools had been implemented, culminating in the adoption of SMART in 2012. Thanks to SMART, these recent conservation successes represent real dividends for protected areas management and consequently threatened species in the OFR.