TECH4ALL Partners: At the Vanguard of Nature Conservation

ByGary Maidment

October 14, 2021

Gary Maidment

With a focus on the education and environment domains, the Huawei TECH4ALL Summit “Advancing Digital Inclusion with Technology” on September 23 brought together TECH4ALL partners to discuss the strategies, projects, and technologies that are helping to build an inclusive and sustainable planet. 

In this post, we’d like you to meet some of our partners who are committed to using technology to protect biodiversity, boost nature conservation outcomes, and empower more people to get involved, including local communities. 

IUCN’s James Hardcastle

Hosted by Associate Director of IUCN Protected Programmes James Hardcastle, the environment track of the summit brought together an expert panel from:

  • IUCN (Global)
  • Ecomode Society (Mauritius)
  • Forest Ethics (Chile)
  • Mammal Society (UK)
  • Rainforest Connection (Global)
  • Hainan National Park Research Institute (China)

Below are some of the highlights from each of the panelists:

Dr. Grethel Aguilar, Director General, IUCN

Dr. Aguilar gave opening remarks at the summit, calling for greater global action on nature conservation and the use of technology to achieve sustainability aims. Technology is at the heart of the IUCN and Huawei Tech4Nature partnership, which plans to develop tech-powered solutions for 300 protected sites in five countries from now until 2023.

Dr. Aguilar speaking at the TECH4ALL Summit

“The COVID pandemic made it much clearer on how much human well-being depends on a healthy relationship with nature. But we continue to see national disasters affecting many countries. We see uncontrolled waste and consumption, rapid industrial development and industrialization. Our thirst for national infrastructure has depleted our land and waters, consolidating the biodiversity loss and the climate crisis.”

“In recent decades, we’ve started to believe that digital technology can be an important part of the solution and can help us solve global challenges if used correctly and smartly.”

Read more about the work of IUCN and visit the IUCN-Huawei Tech4Nature website.

Tang Yanfei, Executive Director, Hainan National Park Research Institute (China)

With hunting and habitat loss decimating the population of the Hainan gibbon to just 35 individuals, this China-native species is the world’s most endangered primate. Tang Yanfei explained how data-driven digital solutions have given conservationists a ray of hope and the target of doubling the gibbon’s numbers in 15 years. Currently data collection is performed manually, which is time-consuming, affected by weather conditions, and can disturb the gibbon’s habitat.

Tang Yanfei speaking at the TECH4ALL Summit

“Experts from leading organizations from around the world have been brought together to carry out research on the Hainan Gibbon and tropical rainforests.”

“We hope to make breakthroughs in acoustics data collection, wireless transmission, and network storage, and establish a database of vertebrates, including the Hainan Gibbon.”

Read more about protecting and repopulating the Hainan gibbon.

Nazeem Nazurally, President, Ecomode Society (Mauritius)

Aiming to protect and restore the coral reef in Mauritius, Nazeem Naurally described one of the first Tech4Nature projects to get underway in partnership with Ecomode Society, IUCN, Mauritius Telecom Foundation, and Huawei. Underpinned by underwater camera technology and AI, the project will also see the construction of reef nurseries and water quality-monitoring.

“In some sites, up to 80% of the coral reef is degraded – the use of technology and AI is fundamental to safeguarding the remaining reef by underwater monitoring.”

Chrissy Durkin, Director of International Expansion, Rainforest Connection (Global)

Rainforest Connection, Huawei, and local partners began working together since 2019 to protect biodiversity in rainforests, forest land, wetlands, and oceans across the globe by deploying AI and acoustics technologies. The solutions can detect the sound of environmental threats such as the gunshots of poachers and the chainsaws and trucks that indicate illegal logging. The technology also detects the calls of specific animals for study and research. The data collected can yield information upon which adaptive conservation decisions can be made to protect species and habitats. 

Chrissy Durkin speaking at the TECH4ALL Summit

“Acoustics technology is really the best way to understand the creatures that inhabit our living planet and the activities that threaten it on a scale that’s pretty much impossible with any other type of data.”

“Data is streamed to the cloud using real-time monitoring hardware called Guardians, or collected using offline devices. We can then analyze it in real time to pick out threats, such as illegal logging, and send the word to rangers on the ground.”

“The end goal is to create a planetary map using acoustics so that anyone, anywhere can connect with and protect the natural world.”

Read more about the work of Rainforest Connection and download the RFCx app to listen to the sounds of rainforests in real time.

Stephanie Wray, Chair, The Mammal Society (UK)

Stephanie Wray introduced the value of conservation when it comes to mammals, the threats facing the UK, and a new “Guardian” project that’s set to get underway in partnership with Rainforest Connection and Huawei. The aim is to protect the iconic but now infrequently seen red squirrel. The larger grey squirrel, an introduced species, outnumbers its endangered red cousin by 20 to 1 and is thought to spread diseases, further weakening the population of the red. The conservation project will use acoustics technology to study populations where the squirrels exist in isolation and where they coexist to help shape effective conservation measures.

Steph Wray speaking at the TECH4ALL Summit

“Mammals are a good indicator of ecosystem health. When you start to see impacts on mammal populations, we know that ecosystem processes are being disrupted and that significant interventions might be needed.”

“The partnership we’re just starting with Rainforest Connection, Huawei, and the University of Bristol is using acoustic monitoring to monitor squirrel populations.”

“Rainforest Connection’s acoustics technology and the AI analysis really helps us because we can use so much data, more than what we’d ever be able to do if we were doing this manually, to really get a picture of what’s going on so that we can start to make predictive models and really targeted conservation.”

Read more about the work of The Mammal Society in the UK.

Bernardo Reyes Ortíz, President, Forest Ethics (Chile)

Focusing on the Nahuelbuta mountain range in Chile, this Guardian project kicked off in July 2021 and is designed to study and protect the endangered Darwin’s fox, an elusive umbrella species that faces many threats, including hunting and habitat loss. The collected data will also reveal insights into the ecosystem as a whole.

“Fewer than 1,000 Darwin’s foxes remain in Chile. We will use bioacoustics methods to track the calls of the fox and other associated species that might be predators or part of the Darwin’s fox diet.”

“The monitoring system allows us to understand the state of health of the forest, particularly in an area where more than 80% of the native forest has been lost in the past 100 years.”

“We can use the monitoring tools to give us information for rapid action and understand where there is illegal logging or to understand when hunters might be in the area. This also entices a lot of local residents and conservation communities to react to threats.”

Read more about the “Guardians of the Forest” TECH4ALL project in Chile.

Panelist Discussion

Watch the panelist discussion below:

Further Reading

Visit the TECH4ALL minisite for more information on other stories and projects in the environment domain of the initiative.

Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

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Gary Maidment

Digital Content Manager, Huawei Gary is a tech writer who focuses on ICT industry trends & he also runs this blog.

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