Rainforest Connection (RFCx) has just launched a Kickstarter campaign that aims to protect some of the world’s most endangered rainforests using recycled smartphones. Each device monitors rainforest activity in real-time and can detect the sounds of illegal logging or poaching in a radius of up to one kilometer (0.6 miles). This allows responders on the ground to intervene immediately. In addition to support via the Kickstarter, RFCx is also gratefully accepting donations of unwanted smartphones.
According to the United Nations, 70 percent of all logging worldwide is illegal. Currently, monitoring activity relies on satellite data, which is days or even weeks old by the time it is received by responders on the ground. The wood has already entered the world market before anyone realizes the illegal logging has occurred. RFCx transforms recycled smartphones into autonomous, solar-powered listening devices that simply hang in the rainforest canopy to monitor and pinpoint chainsaw activity as it happens. Because telecommunications systems are now so ubiquitous, even in remote rainforests, authorities can then react to the threat instantly and intervene to stop the illegal activity.
In addition to pinpointing the sounds of chainsaws and tree-felling, the highly sensitive listening devices can detect the sounds of gunshots and animal distress calls to alert rangers to poaching activity. After successful trials in the rainforests of Sumatra in 2013, RFCx has now partnered with the Zoological Society of London, a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Together they plan to pilot new ways to monitor and stop illegal logging and animal poaching in the equatorial forests of Africa. A proposal by the two partners would install RFCx’s real-time anti-deforestation technology in Cameroon this year, and that’s where the Kickstarter campaign comes in. Each smartphone can protect up to a square mile of forest, but each phone must be fitted out, supplied with a solar power source and installed.
Topher White, RFCx founder, believes that all the right tools have come to fruition at just the right moment to make difference. “It’s clear that real-time awareness and intervention is a major missing piece in protecting the world’s last remaining rainforests. By using old smartphones and existing telecommunications infrastructure, we have built a system that should scale quickly enough to make an impact.” The Kickstarter campaign aims to raise $100,000 to build enough devices to protect at least 200–300 kilometers of forest through pilot projects in Africa and Brazil. The campaign closes on the morning of July 29, 2014.
Photos by Rainforest Connection