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A digital revolution in animal conservation
Wed, 28th Feb 2024

As we celebrate United Nations World Wildlife Day on March 3rd, this year's theme is "Connecting People and Planet: Exploring Digital Innovation in Wildlife Conservation."

It is a day to reflect on the extraordinary diversity of life on our planet and the individuals and organisations who dedicate their lives to protecting nature. In this era of rapid technological advancement, digital innovation has become a powerful tool in the hands of conservationists. A great example of how digital tools are helping is the work carried out by YIARI, International Animal Rescue's (IAR's) partners in Indonesia, whose team are putting the IARconserves holistic conservation strategy into practice in Sumatra, Indonesia.

IAR's close ally and implementation partner for IARconserves in Indonesia, YIARI, has been working on a forest protection project in the Batutegi Forest in Sumatra, a critical ecosystem facing numerous threats, including deforestation and wildlife crime, for ten years.

To combat these challenges, YIARI has introduced the Integrated Forest Crime Alert System, a pioneering digital solution that leverages technology to detect and deter illegal activities in real time—this system, coupled with regular SMART [2] patrols (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool). The SMART patrols include camera trap data and have revolutionised the region's conservation efforts. The SMART Platform helps to standardise and streamline data collection, analysis, and reporting, making it easier for decision-makers to get crucial information from the field. The SMART data helps YIARI mitigate forest threats and implement conservation management activities.

Using camera traps has provided valuable insights into wildlife's behaviour and population dynamics and has also captured captivating images of Sumatra's diverse fauna, from the iconic orangutan and tiger to the elusive clouded leopard. These visuals are a poignant reminder of the rich biodiversity we strive to protect.

One of the flagship conservation initiatives is "Strengthening Community-based Ecosystem through Governance and Protection". This holistic approach recognises the close links between human well-being and environmental conservation. By empowering local communities through education, healthcare, and employment opportunities, we are working to ensure conservation efforts are sustainable and inclusive.

The recognition of YIARI by the BBVA Foundation in their 15th edition of the Biodiversity Conservation Awards is a testament to the impact of their work. Collaborating closely with the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry and National Park Authorities, the IARconserves team have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to protecting Indonesia's precious natural heritage.

The challenges facing wildlife and ecosystems are daunting, but in order to protect wildlife, you first have to consider the people who live in and around the forest. IARconserves projects are designed alongside local communities; the initiatives are community-led and are implemented in close partnership with village leaders to ensure sustainable impact.

As we commemorate World Wildlife Day under the theme of "Connecting People and Planet through Digital Innovation in Wildlife Conservation", we welcome the use of digital innovations that can reinforce the conservation effort and safeguard the natural world for generations to come.