Just like several other forests in the world, Tambopata National Reserve in Peru is also facing a threat from illegal logging. However, with limited resources and a handful of rangers to protect the 1000 sq-mile reserve, the authorities found it really hard to catch loggers in the act. Recently, very clever listening devices were placed in the forest. The detector listens to the sound of a chainsaw and sends an urgent alert to the authorities. The devices are connected to smartphones and use solar energy to keep themselves charged. They are named ‘Guardians’ and can listen to the sound of clouds, humans and rain.
Luisa Rios, coordinator of Lima-based Peruvian Society for Environmental Law said, “Without this information, what would happen is that you can never get the authorities in place by the time you need them there.” Making arrests of the illegal loggers is a good news for the locals. Forests suck in the carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. In some regions, illegal cutting and deforestation has reduced by 90%
The acoustic system of the device detects the sounds and the phones receive a text and an email alert. Topher White. the CEO of rainforest “Rangers and guards, they barely have enough fuel and manpower to go out to [large forested areas] on a regular basis. So having this real-time counting of what’s happening in the park is important for them to be able to choose where they go on a given day.” Each device is capable of listening to one square mile of the forest so they can monitor about 100 square miles of land. However, since the devices are placed with a strategy, the loggers cannot cut down the trees easily.
The devices in place now can detect and monitor 6.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide which is locked in the trees. Saskia Fisher and outreach coordinator for the organization said, “Over the next six to eight months, we expect to launch at least 200 Guardians in 20 new endangered forest sites across the Amazon, Africa, Indonesia and North America.” She said that additional devices can help protect an additional 2000 square miles of forest. Michael Wolosin, head of Forest Climate Analysis said, “To actually catch the bad actors who are stealing the trees, in real time, get somebody arrested, or stopping them as soon as they’ve cut down one tree and before they’ve cut down 10 trees, I think is absolutely a critical part of the picture.”
There are many other ways to keep an eye on the illegal logging but there is no other solution for real-time enforcement. Without this system, it took many days to alert authorities of illegal logging. In addition, the Landsat imagery lacks the resolution required to detect the loss of individual trees, or any patches smaller than about 100 by 100 feet. For now, Peru’s Tambopata National Reserve is looking at its guardians for safety. Protecting these areas is really important for the sake of climate and the wildlife. Rios said, “These people are threatened by illegal activities. When you are protecting the forest, you are also protecting everything that is in there.”