Since its launch in 2017, the EarthRanger application has helped protected-areas, villages, and wildlife organizations from a number of external threats. The application allows law enforcement agencies, organizations, and wildlife conservationists to collect, visualize, track, and map out field data from a single platform. The data collected is crucial for the stability of the wildlife and its surrounding villages. The software has now gone mobile, and field agents can track the necessary entities from their hand-held devices, a new innovation that can promote instantaneous results. Mobile device connectivity can also help rangers use their own phones as tracking devices, allowing them to see where they are at all times. The most significant uses of the app are for the tracking of elephants and rangers in the Kenya Massai Mara region, and planning responses to potential oil spills off the coast of the Philippines.
The original platform devised by the Allen Institute for AI, in partnership with the Mara Elephant Project, gave control room managers an overview of activities in the field, enabling them to respond to foreseen threats. Also enabling law enforcement to track on field rangers with the GPS function. Now embracing the mobile era, the application has been built out to hold greater functionalities, allowing those on the ground to document the exact location and time an incident occurred. The map is constantly updated in real time, allowing managers and rangers to view a wide range of connected land data.
The Mara Elephant Project has been using the EarthRanger application since 2019, managing the protection of its inhabiting wildlife, locals, and rangers; in hopes of building a tool that could track collared elephants and tagged rangers in real time. This would ultimately ensure the protection of these entities, as well as reduce levels of threats and poachings. Being able to track in real time has helped wildlife managers reduce human-elephant conflict, external threats, habitat destruction, and poaching, sending out coordinating patrols to areas that were observed as unstable. Observing and studying the collected data has also allowed the developers to predict the elephants next move based on previous tendencies.
It has also been used by Blue Alliance, a Philippine-based NGO, that aims to protect marine life in the Oriental Mindoro. Observing and collecting constant data, it allows the NGO to oversee any potential oil spill or external threat, similar to the MEP. For instance, a sinker tank spilled 211,000 gallons of industrial oil into monitored waters. The monitoring system was a savior, collecting featured data of oil slicks and other geotagged images, allowing the proper monitoring and cleanup to be deployed to these areas.
Out in the field, many managers and rangers lose phone signal, but now the app is able to function offline, a function that was previously inactive. The app developers have stated that they are currently working on more features and functions, some that will even give the rangers the capability to map routes while offline.
“We are hoping to put the power into the hands of the people on the field. The app’s intention is to solidify or bring together what multiple apps do today to collect data and contribute it into the EarthRanger platform,” lead Software Engineer, Dan O’Neill.