WCS Ecuador, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Water of Ecuador (MAAE), published the "Manual for the implementation of a tool to strengthen the control and surveillance in Protected Areas," which will be distributed among the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP) personnel.

Since 2014, technical teams from WCS Ecuador and the MAAE have been working together to achieve the official adoption of SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) in ten protected areas in the country. SMART is a free software tool for monitoring, information registration, and data analysis in the development of control and surveillance activities in protected areas.

As a technological proposal, SMART was developed by nine conservation organizations worldwide that form the SMART Alliance or SMART Partnership, of which the Wildlife Conservation Society is a member. Mapping and georeferencing the daily patrols of park rangers and registering the sites where illegal activities take place within protected areas are the main objectives of this tool that will be officially implemented in the sixty protected areas that Ecuador has in the four regions of the country.

On June 26 of this year, the MAEE issued Ministerial Agreement No. MAAE-2020-09, making the adoption of this tool official for the entire National System of Protected Areas. The agreement mentions the Undersecretary of Natural Heritage as the technical unit in charge of executing the technological and informational aspects necessary for its implementation. It also states that the objectives of the tool are: "...to manage, organize, and generate spatial information for the control and surveillance programs and biodiversity management of the management plans of the areas that make up the National System of Protected Areas."

SMART is designed so that personnel working in the field as park rangers or heads of protected areas can easily operate the software in an offline version, which facilitates its implementation in offline sites. This tool can also be used by organizations or individuals that provide support or are responsible for wildlife control and surveillance patrols. Thanks to the work of the SMART Alliance, the tool is always being maintained and updated, and is already working in 800 protected areas around the world.

For WCS, the official adoption of SMART by the MAAE for the entire SNAP is a very significant institutional achievement, since the tool assists in the control of commercial hunting, as well as records of wildlife trafficking and illegal logging in protected areas. Also, if these geographic areas are under mining or oil concessions, SMART through the data registry supports to know if these activities are being carried out under the law.

Sebastián Valdivieso, Director of the WCS Ecuador Program said: "Protected areas are the main strategy for biodiversity conservation. We must strengthen their management, professionalize their park rangers, work for their financial sustainability, and protect them from pressures and threats."

Diana Paredes, Coordinator of the Landscape Ecology Program at WCS Ecuador, geographer, the main author of the manual and in charge of technical training on SMART, said: "In the country, WCS is leading the implementation of SMART within the National System of Protected Areas since 2014. Currently, the tool is being implemented in ten protected areas: Yasuní National Park, Limoncocha Biological Reserve, Antisana Ecological Reserve, Chimborazo Wildlife Production Reserve, Galera San Francisco Marine Reserve, La Chiquita Wildlife Refuge, Cayapas Mataje Ecological Reserve, Cotacachi Cayapas National Park, El Pambilar Wildlife Refuge, and the Cuyabeno Wildlife Production Reserve."

As part of the activities to combat wildlife trafficking, WCS Ecuador plans to continue implementing SMART and other actions with state officials, especially in areas along the border with Colombia and Peru. In this context, at the end of September, the program developed a binational workshop for the judicialization of environmental crimes between Ecuador and Colombia and is currently conducting virtual training on SMART as part of the tri-national corridor project Colombia, Ecuador, Peru that involves the Cuyabeno Wildlife Production Reserve.

This implementation of SMART by WCS Ecuador is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.