conservation environment

Listening to the rainforest

A few months ago I wrote about how satellite data is being used to keep an eye on the world’s forests, and identify illegal logging. Global Forest Watch is a great project, but it can only display the results of logging once it’s too late. The trees have already been cut down. Rainforest Connection is a new project that goes one better.

The project takes old smartphones and re-purposes them, weather-proofing them and fitting them out with solar panels. They are then hidden in tree tops in the forest, programmed to listen out for the sound of chainsaws. If they hear the distinctive sound of tree-felling in progress, they send an alert. Rangers can immediately respond.

rainforest connection

When the project was piloted in Indonesia, rangers were able to get to an illegal logging site fast enough to catch the poachers in the act. Further demonstration projects are planned, one in Africa and one in the Amazon. The next stage of development has been funded through Kickstarter, and you can still chip in if you are so inclined.


  1. Now it needs to be taken one step further: show the link of complicity between the local rangers and the poachers, the politicians, international corporations. It is there, highly visible to some of us, on the basis of capitalistic opportunism. How to monitor this real time is the technological challenge. If not the goals, ethics of our societies.

    Ucraine, Gaza can be perfectly monitored by satellites and drones that offer their images without any hierarchical tail, no partiality, no nation states and international organizations filters, direct to the public. Not more technology but technology available to ethical goals, un-partiality, transparency, long-term goals is the issue.

  2. This is such a great idea. re-purposing older technology, and enabling real time alerts that illegal logging is going on. Hopefully just the fact that these phones may be in a forest are enough to deter poachers from cutting any trees at all.
    Maybe this data can be collected and put on a web site so that we can all look and see how much illegal cutting is going on every day all over the world. Might make people think.

    1. One nice thing is that there will be app that anyone can download and use to listen to real-time audio feeds from the rainforest. I think that’s pretty cool too.

      There should hopefully be a deterrent too. It’s hard to prosecute poachers because it’s so rare to catch them in the act, but a couple of successful sentences for poaching and people will be less likely to take the risk.

      Of course, the best conservation programmes work with people too, reducing the incentives for illegal logging by creating forest-based jobs.

      1. That app would be cool. Imagine all of us westerners listening to the birds in a rain forest and then hearing a chain saw start up?
        As consumers we do have to be mindful of what we buy and where it comes from.

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