Start-up Creates Devices From Old Cell Phones To Tackle Illegal Logging and Poaching

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If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Of course it does, and San Francisco based start-up, Rainforest Connection, hopes that one of their devices made from old cell phones, will be there to capture it.

The average American replaces their mobile device every 22 months; often the old device is either discarded in the trash or placed in a drawer, never to be seen again. However, what if we told you that your old cell phone could go on to save and protect one square mile of forest and over 1000 species of plants and animals? Would you still throw your old model away every two years?

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Image Credit: Rainforest Connection

Rainforest Connection are modifying unwanted Android operating systems to capture the sounds of illegal logging and poaching to help save the forests, thousands of species, and the planet. To do this, the devices are fitted with a powerful microphone and modified solar panels, allowing the devises to capture sounds at long distances continuously.

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Image Credit: Rainforest Connection

The devices are then fitted high up in a tree, where they cannot be seen by illegal loggers and poachers. However, if  the devices are ever spotted, a theft-detection system has also been installed on the device to prevent it from being moved.

Once installed and functioning, the old cell phones then transmits compressed audio of the surrounding area to a cloud server. The audio is the immediately analysed in order to distinguish whether the sound was from natural occurrences—a tree falling or animals fighting/hunting each other— or was caused by illegal activities. If the audio captured features the sound of either a chainsaw, gunshots, or an animal in distress, the system immediately alerts local law enforcement officers. This enables a team to then promptly get to the scene and stop the illegal activities taking place.

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Image Credit: Rainforest Connection

Each cell phone device will monitor one square mile of land, “an area of forest so large that it is home to over 1,000 different species of plants and animals,” and will also protect “enough trees from logging to prevent 15,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere,” according to Rainforest Connection’s estimates.

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Image Credit: Rainforest Connection

The start-up plans, after already successfully piloting the devise in Western Sumatra, to expand the project to forests in Brazil and Africa. After having successfully raised over $167,000 on their Kickstarter campaign, and teaming up with the Zoological Society of London, the start-up is now working towards building “enough devices to protect at least 200 to 300 kilometers of forest.”

You can donate either your old Android cell phones or make a financial contribution to this project via the Rainforest Connection website.


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