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Conservation Technology: Transforming how we monitor and protect tropical forests

Blog By Eleanor Flatt, Wildlife Monitoring Program Coordinator, Osa Conservation

 

Tropical forests worldwide are in catastrophic danger due to a magnitude of threats. The Osa has seen a 10.4% increase in secondary forest cover since 1987 but some challenges remain, such as illegal selective logging of rare hardwood-timber species and hunting of forest mammals. Selective interior logging is difficult to detect and monitor using imagery from aerial satellites, by the time the information has been relayed back to the rangers the wood has been loaded on to the truck and moved on. Hunting has reduced immensely across the Osa region due to a cultural transformation towards eco-tourism and conservation efforts, but, is still an issue in some areas. There are only a small number of park rangers for the large tracts of dense, lush, tropical rainforest here in the Osa, making it challenging to detect and stop hunters and loggers. Long-term region-wide wildlife monitoring is vital if we are to understand large-ranging species (like the Jaguar) and assess conservation and restoration success to guide future efforts. However, executing wildlife monitoring at scale is time-costly and expensive for one single organization.

 

How can we overcome the challenges of monitoring and protecting Osa’s rainforest?

Technology and Community.

Camera traps revolutionized wildlife monitoring. Proving to be more efficient than traditional transect surveys at detecting rare and illusive rainforest wildlife. Camera traps were adopted in the Osa Peninsula to survey its charismatic wildlife by Osa Conservation. Who then encouraged fellow landowners, including research groups, protected area managers, ecotourism providers, and local communities, to also set up cameras. Creating the Osa Camera Trap Network (OCTN) – a community wildlife monitoring network made up of a diverse group of stakeholders who unite together to execute region-wide monitoring to answer conservation associated questions. The network expanded to its current 30 members, who obtained more than 222 cameras that were then installed across the Osa region in 2018, executing the largest camera trap grid to date in Central America.

This tremendous camera trap effort unveiled that conservation is working in the Osa, showing that species once confined to Corcovado National Park in the 90’s are now recovering and dispersing into Piedras Blancas National Park. It also highlighted challenges ahead if we are to save the last wild jaguar and white-lipped peccary herds. The OCTN is growing by uniting forces with organizations who are executing camera trap projects in the Talamancas, to become the AMISTOSA Camera Trap Network to execute the grandest project yet: The Reef-to-Ridge Mega Survey! For more info on the OCTN story checkout Mongabay’s article:https://news.mongabay.com/2018/10/the-osa-camera-trap-network-uniting-people-to-monitor-biodiversity/

Puma caught on camera trap during Osa Camera Trap Network efforts in 2018 on network members property (Punta Marenco) on the edge of Corcovado National Park.

 

We are trialling an innovative approach that will allow SINAC’S (Sistema Nacional de Areas de Conservacion Costa Rica) dedicated park rangers to respond to illegal activity alerts in REAL-TIME. Meet Rainforest Eyes and Ears! We deploy conservation technology in the form of GSM camera traps (remote motion censored cameras with phone signal; cameras sourced from Barn Owl, Kolbi sims supplied by ICE) and Rainforest Guardians (acoustic devices installed in the forest tree tops by Rainforest Connection) to detect illegal activity whilst it is happening – not after. Detecting people and wildlife movements and the sounds of chainsaws and logging trucks, sending alerts directly to the rangers’ phones within 1-minute of detection. This allows them to respond in real-time and stop illegal rainforest activities.

 

Wildlife Monitoring Program Coordinator Eleanor Flatt installing a rainforest guardian 30m up in the rainforest canopy. Photo: Bourhan Yasi.

 

Wildlife Monitoring Program Coordinator installing a GSM camera trap – notice its antenna, a characteristic of a GSM camera trap allowing it to send images in real-time. Photo: Michelle Monge.

 

We are not the only ones applying conservation technology to save the rainforest and its wildlife. In June 2019 Andes to Amazon Fund hosted a conservation technology workshop at Los Amigos Biological Station, uniting conservation technologist who are working across the globe with a variety of technologies to save the tropical forests. Osa Conservation’s Executive Director – Dr Andy Whitworth and Wildlife Monitoring Program Coordinator – Eleanor Flatt attended to participate in sharing conservation technology stories and devising a technological solution to rainforest threats. Read more about this incredible event on Mongabay: https://news.mongabay.com/2019/08/precision-conservation-high-tech-to-the-rescue-in-the-peruvian-amazon/

 

Founder of Osa Conservation Dr Adrian Forsyth opening the conservation technology event with a map of the amazon and motivational words. Photo By: Eleanor Flatt.

 

A stunning view of the Amazon rainforest from a tower at Los Amigos Biological Station that surrounded the conservation technology event.

Osa Conservation
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