When Dr. Jane Goodall began studying East Africa’s chimpanzees in the early 1960s, she used a pencil, binoculars and a notebook to capture her discoveries in the forests of our closest living relatives. When Goodall realized these forests and the precious chimpanzees were in danger, she knew something needed to be done.
Fast forward nearly 60 years, and threats to chimpanzee habitat have multiplied. Farms and development have caused extensive deforestation, as human populations around chimpanzee habitat continue to grow. But conservation technology has also advanced, offering new ways to fight threats like illegal deforestation and poaching.
Today, rangers in Uganda trained by the Jane Goodall Institute staff take mobile phones and tablets on their forest patrols. They download deforestation alerts generated weekly by satellites circling the earth. They then upload their observations of illegal logging sites and animal snares so the information can be used to inform conservation efforts in near-real time.
The rangers are using a tool called Forest Watcher, an app developed by scientists and programmers at the Jane Goodall Institute, WRI and Vizzuality. It builds on technology from Global Forest Watch, an online platform that provides data and tools for monitoring forests. By marrying satellite monitoring with boots-on-the-ground conservation work, the rangers using Forest Watcher have the intel to vary their patrol routes in response to new threats and halt new forest clearing frontiers before they penetrate deeper into chimpanzee habitat.
In a new WRI Podcast, I sit down with Rachael Petersen, deputy director of Global Forest Watch, and Dr. Lilian Pintea, vice president of conservation science at the Jane Goodall Institute, to discuss how the Forest Watcher app is being used by Uganda’s forest rangers.