October 23, 2021

Rainforest Connection: Stopping the Destruction of Indonesia’s Forests

                   Rainforest Connection: Stopping the Destruction of Indonesia’s Forests

In this series of blog posts, our partner Rainforest Connection introduces the technologies, processes, and use cases that enable rangers and communities to take action to protect endangered ecosystems.

The Alert Review and Response Unit (AR2)

The AR2 is a group of Rainforest Connection team members. They work together to review and validate “threat” alerts detected by the Guardians for a few selected regions and projects in order to achieve three main purposes: 

Awareness: To better understand and identify patterns of illegal forest activities at project sites on a daily basis, via a human alert review process.Accountability: To ensure that RFCx is building soft accountability with our partners concerning the data and insights generated by RFCx technology, and “soft push” them toward intervention in a way that fits within their framework.Impact: To be able to demonstrate results through partner action within the context and realities of each particular project site.

This is accomplished via a human-conducted alert review process, incorporating follow-up activities with our ground partners.

Dashboards are utilized to track analytics and KPIs, and as we learn more we are continually building out tools to better support partners and rangers onsite. This better enables us to demonstrate impact at project sites through partner action. 

In short, our aim is to add further value to the work being done by our on-ground partners, using the full suite of RFCx tools and technology.

As such, a typical cycle with this new unit is as follows: 

When an alert or cluster of alerts is generated, the AR2 Unit reviews them, conducting quality assurance to ensure the alert or alerts represent a legitimate threat. Daily updates are shared with partners via a comprehensive incident report, which outlines all alert clusters (e.g., the type of alert, the particular Guardian site where the alert originated, how long the activity took place, and links to recordings) for that time period. We then conduct case management in order to follow up and engage with partners concerning what response was taken in reaction to the incident (e.g., investigation, meeting with the relevant local community, a report to the relevant forestry commission, and if a response was even needed). 

AR2 Support in West Sumatra, Indonesia

Western Sumatra’s Mudiak Badou landscape is under severe threat by rampant land-based concessions, such as oil palm plantations, mining, industrial forest plantations, logging, unsustainable development of temperate climate cash crops and illegal logging. 

The RFCx team implemented a threat detection project partnering with local NGO Konservasi Indonesia Warsi (KKI Warsi) and several villages in West Sumatra. 

Empowering our on-the-ground partners with the tools and data insights to take more efficient action:

RFCx Guardians and platforms have given KKI Warsi and local village forest guards (VFGs) the ability to use the alerts as incident reports and as forensic evidence for forest rangers, police and local government to adjust their patrols and take action. We have established trends and patterns of illegal logging among the village forests, and the VFGs are using RFCx’s incident reporting and GPS tracking to map their patrols. Meetings have been held with government entities and patrols have been altered and increased based on RFCx data.

Through RFCx technology, the VFGs now have access to real-time alerts. The way the patrols were being conducted has changed, and KKI Warsi has established an organizational mechanism to respond to alerts. Moreover, KKI Warsi is using the results from the webtools to showcase how RFCx systems can be an example or storefront for forest rangers, police and local government who are the main authority allowed to intervene and will encourage them to make decisions using forensic evidence and field incident reports /findings to take legal action. 

AR2’s additional layer of partnership and support for the benefit of all

The RFCx AR2 team reviews all alerts being generated by the Guardians in West Sumatra on a daily basis to ensure that they are genuine. The RFCx team held multiple meetings with the KKI Warsi to align on the intended outcomes from this initiative. 

The team then uses this data to create daily incident reports which document all verified chainsaw activity in the region.  These reports specify the village forests, Guardian sites and specific times of day that chainsaw activity is occurring, with links to the alerts on the RFCx Dashboard so that the KKI Warsi team may review the audio themselves. These reports are also used to gather information from our partners concerning responses to illegal activity. 

As the AR2 team compiles and analyzes the data from the Guardians, we are able to assemble various metrics concerning sites, dates, days of the week, and times of day in which chainsaw activity takes place. This places us in a position to be able to provide well-founded recommendations to KKI Warsi, the forest patrols, and the relevant law enforcement and forestry entities concerning where and when deforestation activity is most likely to occur.

The AR2 Unit also engages with KKI Warsi via WhatsApp messages and recurring video meetings in order to follow up on responses to chainsaw incidents, and to better understand what information is most valuable/relevant to supporting Warsi’s efforts. Warsi now files reports with the local village Forest Management Units (FMUs) based on RFCx information, for law enforcement follow-up on illegal logging. 

Incidents

Images of logs filed on the RFCx Ranger app

Based on Guardian information, one patrol team recently located a logging camp near the village forest of Lunang. Around the camp there were many findings of felled resin trees, meranti, and keruing wood. Hundreds of fallen tree trunks were found, in addition to a few pieces of wood that were fashioned into boards and logs. There were also visible marks of wood being dragged away from the site by buffalo. 

Evidence of illegal logging discovered on patrol and documented via the RFCx Ranger App – the Rangers’ identities are protected to prevent reprisals 

One village forest monitoring group (FMU) from Lunang Tengah, has told RFCx that the Guardians are extremely helpful for them in identifying where and when chainsaw activity is taking place. When they get a Ranger App notification, they typically discuss it with the local village forest community before and then perform a ground patrol, taking pictures of any evidence they find. 

Guardian In Tree in Lunang Area

These rangers sometimes encounter loggers on their patrols, and when this happens they stop the activity and explain to the loggers that cutting of trees in the area is not allowed. They then submit a report of these patrols. After one particular incident, certain loggers signed a written statement that they would not conduct logging activities in that area again. 

In July at one site, rangers discovered a huge tractor used for illegal mining within a village forest.  They captured some pictures and a video as evidence and shared it with local FMUs, based on the operating procedures in place with the village government. The excavators ceased the illegal activity after it was explained to them that they were in a village forest area.  The owner promised that they will remove their equipment and they won’t enter the village forest again. If they keep entering, the FMU and the village forest will ask for the police’s help.

Download the Rainforest Connection app to listen to the sounds of rainforests around the world in real time: HarmonyOS, Android, or iOS.

About the Author

Todd Hatcher, Partnerships and Growth Manager, Rainforest Connection

Todd is based in Atlanta, Georgia. When he’s not working to raise funds for the protection of vulnerable ecosystems, he spends his time traveling with his fiancé and hiking with his dog. 

Further Reading:

Nature Guardians: A Protective Umbrella for Biodiversity in Chile [Video & article on the TECH4ALL project implemented to study and protect the Nahuelbuta ecosystem & endangered Darwin’s fox] Nature Thriving: The Wolves of Aoos Gorge, Greece [Video and article updating on the TECH4ALL project designed to protect the endangered Balkan chamois, featuring RFCx’s Lawrence Whittaker]How Acoustics Can Safeguard Biodiversity [Video & transcript: TEDx talk by RFCx’s Chrissy Durkin]Read More

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