The Amazon rainforest is calling
To combat illegal logging, a non-profit equips trees with cellphones
In a narrow patch of the Amazon rainforest surrounded on all sides by clear-cut pastureland, members of the Tembe indigenous tribe have pinned their hopes for survival on an implausible idea: that by equipping trees with cellphones they can save both their forest home and their millennial way of life.
The Tembe have paired up with a San Francisco- based non-profit called Rainforest Connection, which uses a treetop cellphone device to listen for the trucks, chainsaws and other telltale sounds of encroaching loggers. The brainchild of physicistturned- forest crusader Topher White, the device looks like a daisy, with a weather- proofed cellphone from which solar panels radiate out, to charge it. Hidden in the tree canopy, the device transmits ambient sound to the cloud, where software programmed to recognize the sound of chainsaws sends realtime alerts to rangers when such noises are detected.
It’s already been tested in West Africa and Indonesia, where it brought an end to logging on a small sanctuary for one of the world’s most endangered primates, the gibbon.
But White said the stakes on the Tembe reservation, in the Brazilian state of Para — ground zero of the fight over the future of the Amazon — are even higher.
“It’s the difference between fighting against annihilation and fighting against the destruction of the environment,” said White. “Most of the people we work for are quite passionate about that, but the urgency we see from the Tembe is especially palpable.”
Rainforest Connection founder Topher White. His high-tech device made from discarded smartphones listens for trucks, chainsaws and other sounds of encroaching loggers. When installed high up in tree canopies, Rainforest Connection hardware is considered virtually invisible.
Rainforest Connection’s high-tech device made from discarded smartphones listens for trucks, chainsaws and other sounds of encroaching loggers. When installed high up in tree canopies, Rainforest Connection hardware is considered virtually invisible.