Achieving “No Cut, No Kill”

Thap Lan National Park is the epicenter of Thailand’s Rosewood Wars. Hundreds of illegal loggers and their crews are cutting the last Siamese rosewood trees, one of which can be worth US$4,000-6,000, and killing the rangers who try to stop them. Those deaths and rosewoods’ red-hued timber have led conservationists to call it “bloodwood.”

Protecting Thap Lan from this onslaught is crucial. Thap Lan is Thailand’s second largest park and one of the last intact habitats for a suite of threatened and endangered species: elephants, Asiatic bears, clouded leopards, banteng, gaur, sambar, malayan sun bears, hornbills, and over 800 other vertebrate species. Thap Lan is at the heart of the DPKY, a 595,700 hectare cluster of five contiguous national parks and a globally important biodiversity hotspot. This area contains the last substantial piece of Southeastern Indochina dry evergreen forest in the world.

In July 2015, the Rosewood Wars, a lack of law enforcement, and a proposal to build a highway through the DPKY caused the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to threaten to downgrade the DPKY to the World Heritage in Danger list. The transnational crime syndicates that run these logging operations have long enjoyed an advantage over park rangers because of superior numbers, funding and weaponry. That equation changed in 2016 with the deployment of Global Park Defense systems, technology and training. By 2018, we had achieved our 500th arrest of illegal loggers in Thap Lan National Park – a clear indication of both the degree of threat to this unique place and the effectiveness of Global Park Defense.

The multi-year deployment of Global Park Defense includes training for rangers on night patrolling, park protection systems, armed combat, and improving patrol effectiveness. Focused on breaking up the Thai syndicates, middle men, and the supply chain providing illegal teams with chainsaws and supplies, Global Park Defense technology gives Thap Lan Park Rangers a “force multiplier” by targeting patrols and improving park-wide protection.

Finally, an anonymous informant reward system helps eliminate corruption by park officials. Global Park Defense plaques are attached on or near official park signage on the entire park border with a toll-free number to report illegal activities. An independent 24/7 call center logs and reports all legitimate calls which are professionally reviewed and dispatched. Internet teams of current and former law enforcement officers, along with wildlife crime experts, inspect reports before forwarding to park authorities and law enforcement officers. The reward system offers up to US$1,000 for anonymous informants resulting in a successful prosecution, and up to $200 for a successful arrest.

Over the past five years, we have worked with our partners to achieve these conservation outcomes:

  • Reduced illegal activities and encroachment
  • Introduced sustainable tourism for increased park revenues and government and public recognition
  • Strengthened the SMART patrol system
  • Restored the Lum Prang Ranger Station in the core of the park to full function
  • Restored key wildlife habitats to allow recovery of tigers, elephants, and other large wildlife, and provided viewing areas for visitors
  • Tripled the number of rangers, provided them with military support, and increased park operations and capital investment available by 3-4 times
  • Provided supplies, GPSs, digital cameras, high quality uniforms, field gear, and other necessary supplies to improve the morale of park rangers and patrol effectiveness
  • Installed and improved the SMART Patrol Center for Thap Lan National Park to be used as a place for monthly patrol meetings among park officers and rangers
  • Provided rewards for park rangers for important arrest cases
  • Provided rewards for informants who give intelligence information to help enforcement
  • Installed a park-wide radio communications system for rangers and sensors/camera traps
  • Implemented hidden cellular camera traps on trails to detect movement of rosewood and wildlife poachers; real-time photos alerted park rangers for timely interdiction
  • Implemented seismic sensors to detect illegal pedestrian or motor vehicle activities in and around the park
  • Began flying UAVs (drones) regularly across the entire park border and sensitive areas to monitor encroachment and to detect poaching and logging camps
  • Installed a command and control system using GIS and LANDSAT 8 data analysis, integrating patrol communications and dispatch systems
  • Began scientific monitoring of wildlife populations using transect patrolling and camera traps to count tigers, leopards, bears and other wildlife every year