How do you monitor a protected area – vast by definition, with its many challenges (poaching, deforestation, illegal exploitation of natural resources, etc.) – without an extensive network of roads, and, what’s more, without a network?
This is the mission of the operations room at the Complexe d’Aires Protégées de Binder-Léré (CAPBL) in Chad, which tracks the movements of GPS-collared elephants, trap cameras, vehicles and agents, also equipped with geolocation devices, on a large screen.
The software used is called EarthRanger, and enables these devices to be geolocated in real time, recorded in an online database, analyzed and used to draw up forecasts and strategies. It is an essential tool for tracking various movements (measuring distance to points, localization), for communicating with teams, and for regularly updating reports (control, wildlife observation, human/wildlife conflict, awareness-raising, etc.).
Above : The protected area is monitored 24 hours a day in the operations room, using data transmitted to Earthranger.
With this real-time overview, operators can analyze the situation and make informed decisions (e.g. sending community agents to camps or occupied land, or actions that take into account the seasonal nature of elephant movements). Since this summer, the software is also available on cell phones, which is very practical for officers on patrol.
“The ability to enter data offline in these remote areas, and to synchronize it once back online in our headquarters, makes it extremely effective in protecting both staff and the protected area,” explains Yvonne Ignageanki, newly promoted Operations Room Manager at Zah Soo National Park.
This young Chadian with a passion for nature is originally from Léré, in the western Mayo-Kebbi region, and wanted to finish her university studies with a thesis on the CAPBL. Since 2022, she has been one of the operators in the operations room, and this year she is in charge.
Above : Daily debriefing at 6pm in front of park management
Can you give us a concrete example of how useful this software is?
On numerous occasions, it has enabled our staff to avoid running into a herd of elephants at night, or during torrential rains.
How many operators work in this department, and how fast are you growing?
There have been 8 operators since July 15, 2023. This is the beating heart of the Complexe, with a permanent service, even at night. Two operators are on duty at a time, in 24-hour shifts.
Above : A patrol chief in the protected area with a GPS device linking him to the control room
Could you describe the day-to-day work in the operations room?
Daily and weekly tasks include constant monitoring of wildlife security teams in the field, positioning them close to the elephants to be monitored, guiding park surveillance patrols and carrying out targeted missions (awareness-raising, apprehension, recovery and escorting agents). The room also verifies and guides all other movements in and around the CAPBL and Zah Soo National Park. We report daily and weekly to command and management.
How do people around you react to the fact that you’re one of the few women (for the time being!) in this profession, and what are your ambitions for the future?
A lot of the people around me like the fact that I’m a hard worker, that’s all. That said, they don’t usually have a clear idea of the tasks I perform! The teamwork goes well, and we have a good working relationship that goes beyond the fact that I’m the only woman in the room.
In the future, as I’d like to continue working in parks like here in Zah Soo, I’d like to go back to studying more in-depth and specialized studies in protected areas.
Ci-dessus : Yvonne Ignageanki, Responsable de la salle des opérations, avec son équipe