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A Snow Leopard at the Naltar Valley in Pakistan. The introduction of technology will help in conservation efforts. Image Credit: APP

Islamabad: To help conservationists do their jobs more efficiently with latest technologies, WWF-Pakistan has launched first international training workshop to combat poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

The five-day training workshop launched on Monday in Islamabad is educating wildlife experts on Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (Smart) systems in selected protected areas of Pakistan.

It aims to set up a technology-based wildlife monitoring and conservation system for the staff of three selected areas including Khunjerab National Park, Central Karakorum National Park and Margallah Hills National Park.

With the launch of this training, “Pakistan has become the first country to pilot Smart tool for snow leopard conservation,” WWF-Pakistan Manager Wildlife, Hamera Aisha, told Gulf News.

“The technology-based training offers participants an incredible opportunity to manage protected areas and help control wildlife poaching and illegal trade of wildlife through ” Aisha said.

Explaining the significance of Smart tool, the lead trainer and Smart specialist, Wei Lim Yap, said “Wildlife poaching and trafficking is getting worse due to weak coordination among enforcement agencies, lack of political commitment, and absence of public engagement. In such circumstances, Smart technology, which uses camera trapping, can be of immensely helpful in curbing illegal wildlife trade.”

As many as 27 park staff and managers of Gilgit-Baltistan and Islamabad region are receiving a combination of software, training materials and site-based protection standards to monitor animals. The participants of the workshop said the training offers them a wonderful opportunity to network with global experts and learn about latest wildlife monitoring practices. Among the participants were officials of the Ministry of Climate Change, provincial Wildlife Departments, Zoological Survey of Pakistan and other government organisations.

Introduction and implementation of latest technology solutions such as Smart will play a critical role in stabilising the diminishing wildlife of Pakistan by building capacity of forest rangers and streamlining the monitoring and reporting processes, according to Saman Hussain Khan, Deputy Conservator Wildlife and National Focal Point for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites). “Effective management of protected areas and priority landscapes is essential in combating poaching and illegal wildlife trade,” he added.

Addressing the participants, Rab Nawaz, senior official of WWF-Pakistan, explained how illegal wildlife trade is now recognised as a transnational organised crime due to its shocking impacts on wildlife and the scale of illicit profits.

“We need to join hands to promote consolidated efforts to halt this illicit industry”, he said, adding that the weeklong training will help the provincial wildlife authorities to adopt and equip themselves with the latest tools and technologies critical to tackling poachers.

WWF-Pakistan hosted the first national zero poaching and Smart consultation workshop in collaboration with Ministry of Climate Change in 2017, which led to the current workshop — Pakistan’s first Smart based training on snow leopard monitoring and patrolling system.

What is Smart?

The Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (Smart) is designed to improve anti-poaching efforts and overall law enforcement effectiveness in established conservation areas and management zones.

The Smart application uses geographical data collected by rangers or community on threats, patrol effort and conservation actions in order to record results, improve performance, and evaluate efficiency of monitoring strategies to improve protection of wildlife and their habitats.