Cellphones can save the rainforest

Rainforest kickstarter

Finally, a startup has emerged that would like to solve the age-old question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”. To do this, Rainforest Connection is planting cellphones in the treetops.

Wildlife conservation is a hot topic in many African countries and South America. The San Francisco-based startup claims to have found the right technology to stop illegal logging and poaching in Africa and Amazon.

Rainforest Connection is running a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, where it states that it hopes to “transforms recycled smartphones into autonomous, solar-powered listening devices that can detect and pinpoint signs of environmental destruction activity—such as chainsaws, gunshots and animal distress calls — at great distance”.

The company argues that current systems rely on things like satellites, which indicate rainforest destruction when it’s too late. Together with the Rainforest Connection mobile app, the smartphones are able to stream audio activities in real-time, allowing people to react the moment the event occurs. Backers of the Kickstarter project can even download the app and listen to rainforest sounds live.

Dubbed Forest Guardians, these devices are created using old phones which are fitted with solar panels and protection cases to extend their lifespan. [See this YouTube video about illegal logging.]

The startup notes that there are more than 150 million mobile phones thrown away annually. Each one of its devices is able to protect 300 hectares of forest. It’s the company’s answer to climate change and mass extinction.

In January this year, we wrote how Airware is using drones to combat rhino poaching in Kenya. If you think about it, South Africa’s largest wildlife reservation, the Kruger National Park, is almost the size of Israel — the world’s most militarised zone. Overseeing areas this large, and often inhabitable, require some extra help from tech, and a dash of imagination.

The company has raised over US$60 000 so far with the goal of US$100 000.

Editor’s Note:  This post was first published on VentureBurn on July 8, 2014.  It’s Kickstarter campaign may not be over but the company may still be soliciting investment.

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