Conservationists hail success of Thailand wildlife conservation effort

Feb. 11, 2014 at 5:30 PM
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BANGKOK, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- U.S. conservationists are applauding a "smart" program helping protect tigers, elephants and other wildlife species in the forests of Thailand.

Initiated in 2005 in Thailand's Western Forest Complex, the Smart patrol now serves as an example of how such systems can effectively protect wildlife, officials of the Wildlife Conservation Society said Tuesday.

The aim of the Smart system -- a suite of patrol methods and measurement technology -- is to incorporate science into enforcement efforts in Thailand's western forests, one of the last strongholds for tigers and elephants in Southeast Asia, Anak Pattanavibool, Director of WCS's Thailand Program, said at a wildlife tracking symposium in London.

"Protecting Thailand's tigers and elephants against poachers -- many of whom are armed and well-financed -- is a risky business," Pattanavibool said. "The measurable benefits of the Smart patrol to guide enforcement actions have given park guards validation and added confidence in their duties."

Elements of the Smart program include adequate numbers of patrol staff, good equipment and support, high-quality training, and standardized law enforcement monitoring which utilizes the newly developed SMART software.

The software is a free, publicly available application that tracks wildlife poaching activity.

Smart patrols have achieved a significant degree of success since the program's implementation, the WCS said, enabling a force of more than 500 rangers to effectively patrol an area some 2,500 square miles.

"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," Pattanavibool said. "The system has become a model approach for protecting wildlife across Southeast Asia."

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