Thai innovators help pioneer regional forest protection patrols

Thai conservationists who developed a regional forest protection system called SMART patrols said it is bringing positive results and real hope that countries can defeat deforestation, wildlife poaching and trafficking.

Other conservationists from the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) who gathered in Bangkok this month for a conference on strengthening the SMART Patrol System supported their view.

The SMART Patrol System uses the Network Centric Anti-Poaching System (NCAPS), an infrastructure of camera traps placed strategically throughout the forests. The cameras deter poachers or record them in the act of committing crimes, allowing forest rangers to respond and also providing evidence to prosecute poachers they apprehend.

The SMART Patrol System was developed by Thai conservationists to protect the Kingdom’s Western Forest complex. ASEAN countries have been implementing it for about a decade, and its results have improved with use. Aside from the cameras, it relies on well-planned patrols, geographical technology like GPS and systematic recordings of forest resources and wildlife, and the threats to them. Information from the field is systematically collected, then processed and analyzed.

The information is used to create an extensive database of the problems and threats to protected areas. It facilitates planning and management, sophisticated forest protection, and supports law enforcement systems against forest and wildlife crimes.

ASEAN conservationists said, however, that SMART needs to expand in their countries to be even more effective. Implementation has been uneven, and poachers may be moving to areas where the system is not yet in place.

Several ASEAN countries still have large forest cover. Forests are crucial in efforts to mitigate climate change and preserve the world’s biodiversity and natural resources.

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