A FOREST POACHING DETECTOR

Frank Marwa
3 min readApr 28, 2023

By Frank Maro

Forests are a vital resource for the continued existence of humanity; they are the lungs of the world, helping to purify the air we all breathe, and they provide an abundance of raw materials used for everything from construction to energy production. But some of us have been destroying the forests that aid our lives through illegal harvesting and overexploitation of forest resources without regard for the consequences for this generation and the generations to come.

Picture taken at a poaching site showing young trees cut and logs left behind
Picture taken at a poaching site showing young trees cut and logs left behind

Research has shown that in most cases where tree poaching is done, natural tree species of large diameter classes (greater than 30cm) are the ones that are most targeted, leaving large gaps in the forest that favor the emergence and dominance of foreign invasive species while the native species that take many years to grow are eliminated. The surprising thing is that very little (in most cases less than 30%) of the destroyed tree is utilized due to the inefficient ways used by the poachers to harvest while avoiding the authorities.

Data collected from poaching sites in the Kimboza Forest Reserve Source: Neema E. Chamba (2021) SUA
Data collected from poaching sites in the Kimboza Forest Reserve Source: Neema E. Chamba (2021) SUA
A picture of the Forest Poaching Detector enclosed in a waterproof case
A picture of the Forest Poaching Detector enclosed in a waterproof case

After graduating from college with a degree in forestry, I began to wonder what could be done to better safeguard our nation’s trees. One solution that came to mind was to develop a device (the Forest Poaching Detector) that would alert forest guards to the sound of chainsaws being used by poachers, allowing them to track down the perpetrators and apprehend them before any lasting damage could be done to the forest.

In the table below, you can see a summary of the device’s five main parts and what they do.

Poachers will have a difficult time noticing the device because it is mounted on trees in a way that makes it difficult for them to notice it. The device will constantly listen to the environment around it and compare the characteristics of the sounds it hears to those of chainsaws that have been pre programmed.

A Map of Kimboza Forest Reserve showing areas most affected by poaching activities
A Map of Kimboza Forest Reserve showing areas most affected by poaching activities

Most illegal logging of forest products has been discovered to occur in the inner-most parts of the forest that are inaccessible to regular patrols by forest guards; these are the areas where the device is best suited to be used.

I would like to thank Open Map Development Tanzania and all of their partners because, through their Open Skies Fellowship program, the project was able to progress from concept to prototype, and I hope to see it become the primary line of defense against forest poaching in all protected forests in the near future.

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