A molecular-biologist-turned-Buddhist-monk says altruism is the answer to many of the world's most pressing challenges. Can concern for others help solve wealth inequality, climate change and world hunger?
New technologies are now giving conservationists abilities that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. Using remote sensors, satellite mapping and drones, scientists and activists can now monitor deforestation and endangered wildlife in real time. And a new Wiki-leaks-style website is being used to target the kingpins of wildlife smuggling. But like many technologies, these new tools have risks. Tracking devices in the hand of poachers, for example, could prove devastating to endangered elephants. Join Diane and a panel of guests for a discussion on how technology is transforming conservation efforts worldwide.
- Rebecca Moore engineering manager, Google, and founder of Google Earth Outreach
- Andrea Crosta founder, WildLeaks and executive director of Elephant Action League
- Jon Hoekstra chief scientist, World Wildlife Fund. He is author of "The Atlas of Global Conservation" and a recent article in Foreign Affairs: "Networking Nature: How Technology is Transforming Conservation"
Maps In Motion
Google’s Time Lapse project is giving Internet users around the world a rare perspective on how certain areas have changed over time.
Las Vegas, Nevada
This timelapse, which spans 1984 to 2012, shows how Las Vegas, Nevada—one of the the fastest-growing cities in the U.S.—over the course of nearly 20 years, thanks to images that the United States Geological Survey has been collecting since 1972.
As the strip grows, it’s also clear that Lake Mead (at right) shrinks).
“Each frame of the timelapse map is constructed from a year of Landsat satellite data, constituting annual 1.7-terapixel snapshot of the Earth at 30-meter resolution,” Google’s team says.
Raleigh, North Carolina
In this timelapse, Google shows the suburban growth around Raleigh North Carolina
Deforestation, Farm Land, Human Settlements And Our Changing Planet
The Environmental Defense Fund used Google’s tool to showcase these four areas around the world whose development the group says “will open your eyes to our changing planet.”
Create Your Own Timelapse
Want to see how your hometown has changed over time? Zoom into your area (or any area of interest) on the Google Timelapse viewer and hit “share” to send to social media, or to family or friends.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Conservationists are now using drones and new mapping technology to monitor deforestation, climate change, and illegal poaching. But in the wrong hands, some of these tools could have devastating effects on wildlife. With me to talk about how technology is transforming conservation efforts: Jon Hoekstra with the World Wildlife Fund, and Andrea Crosta with WildLeaks and the Elephant Action League, joining us from a studio in Mountain View, Calif., Rebecca Moore with Google Earth Outreach.
MS. DIANE REHMI invite you as always to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MR. ANDREA CROSTAHappy to be here.
MR. JON HOEKSTRAThank you for having us.
MS. REBECCA MOOREThank you.
REHMJon Hoekstra, I'll start with you. Talk about how these new technologies are really transforming conservation efforts.
HOEKSTRATechnology is changing conservation by giving us seemingly super powers. We can see more than ever before in more detail than ever before. We can plug people into nature so that they have a way to connect, even from a distance. We can go on virtual ride-alongs and gain insights into the lives of otherwise very secretive elusive animals. And we can also start to enhance the security and protection of nature.
REHMGive me an example of a video ride-along.
HOEKSTRAYeah. So it's not a video ride-along so much as a virtual ride-along. But we've -- using tracking technology, so we can put tags on animals that use GPS locations and follow their movements. And so we can track migrating birds as they undergo their seasonal migrations.
HOEKSTRAWe can track elephants as they move across the landscape. We can track jaguars as they hunt their prey through the forests of the Amazon.
REHMHow fascinating. And, Andrea, tell us about your WildLeaks website.
CROSTAYes. WildLeaks is the first initiative for wildlife crime and forest crime whistleblowers. It was created, developed, and it's funded by the Elephant Action League, which is the nonprofit organization based in California that I established last year, focused on wildlife crime, combating wildlife crime through collaborative, innovative, and concrete projects. And WildLeaks is a clear example of this. We basically collect confidential information of wildlife crimes through different means, especially through our platform. And then we try to transform it into actionable items, so we can launch our own investigations or with partners.
CROSTAWe can share with law enforcement agency, trust the law enforcement agency, or we can share with the media.
REHMAnd, Rebecca, tell us about Google Earth engine and Google Earth Outreach.
MOOREWell, it's been really fantastic that -- when Google Earth and Google Maps first came out, Diane, in 2005, it turned out that we were putting in the hands of the public the most realistic virtual digital replica of the planet that had ever existed before. We've published more than 20 petabytes of satellite and aerial imagery data. That's 20 billion megabytes. Think about the number of photographs that is, and we're updating this constantly.
MOOREWhen Google Earth first came out, many people said, well, what can I do with it? It's really fun. It's cool. I can fly to my home. I can figure out where to go on vacation. But what's great is that conservation biologists and grassroots environmentalists quickly figured out that it could be a new technology for conservation. And specifically they're using it, for example, to make fundamental discoveries about the natural world, studying the satellite data that we're publishing every day.
MOORESo a fringing coral reef previously unknown was discovered off the coast of Western Australia. It was about to be subjected to oil and gas development. But because of that discovery, that was halted. A previously unknown rainforest was discovered on the slopes of Mount Meru or Mabu, I think it was, and that led to a conservation biology expedition that discovered new species, so discovery and then understanding. People are using, for example, the Sierra Club -- and I personally used Google Earth to portray some complex environmental issues and use it to stop logging
MOORE...to protect the Alaska Wildlife Refuge. I could tell you more about that. And then sort of advocacy -- Dr. Jane Goodall tells us that only if people understand will they care. Only if they care will they act. Well, these new tools are incredibly immersive environments in which to explain to the public what's going on. And then the Google Earth engine aspect is now -- we're turbocharging science so that we've now created almost like a living, breathing dashboard for the planet where you can get in almost near real time a picture of where deforestation is happening, where changes are happening on the planet, and put that information at everyone's hands.
REHMHmm. And we have some time lapse maps from Google Earth's project on our website, drshow.org. One shows the growth of Las Vegas since 1984. The other shows the rapid building of highways, neighborhoods around Raleigh, N.C. You can see them both and find more information about creating your own time lapse maps at drshow.org. Jon, talk about Eyes on the Forest. This is an environmental effort using these new mapping tools.
HOEKSTRAYes. So Eyes on the Forest is a partnership that we've done with Rebecca and her team at Google Earth Outreach. It is partnership with World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia and a couple of other Indonesian environmental groups. And it uses mapping technology to make visible information about the island of Sumatra which is one of the only places in the world where you could find elephants, tigers, and orangutans all in the same forest.
HOEKSTRABut they're under threat. We've lost more than 30 percent of those forests in the last several years. And using the Google Earth technologies, you are able to go and see maps of where the wildlife ranges are, where the forests are, where the national parks are, where the legal palm concessions and logging concessions are.
HOEKSTRAAnd by making this information available, it's used by local environmentalists. When they see things happening in the landscape, they can see if it's legal or not. And if it's illegal, they can report it. And the visibility, the transparency that we've created by making all of this information available in visual maps has enabled environmental groups to put pressure on major companies that are driving the deforestation there and get them to commit to ensuring that their supply chain of palm oil, for instance, is legal, that it's not grown on illegally cleared forests or forest that's been cleared in a national park. So...
REHMAnd to what extent are they truly cooperating, knowing that they have been seen and caught?
HOEKSTRAYeah. Well, it's the transparency that puts the pressure on them. So before Eyes on the Forest, we could raise our voices, and we could express our outrage that they were doing something we believed to be illegal. But when it's available online and anybody anywhere in the world can see it and validate it, suddenly that voice becomes much stronger.
HOEKSTRAAnd we've seen companies come around and make strong commitments to get deforestation out of their supply chains, change the way that they source their products. And that deflates the market for the illegal products, so it's very helpful.
REHMAnd talk about the illegal products produced by poachers, Andrea. Are these technologies really helpful there?
CROSTAThey are. In our case, we build up the WildLeaks platform using a technology called Tor. Tor technology is the only technology available that allow the public to surf the Internet anonymously. In other words, if you're using a Tor browser, which works exactly as a normal browser, nobody's able to see the website that you are browsing and if you're uploading or downloading information. In our case, we receive several leaks completed with pictures, with videos, with files...
REHMTips from people who are seeing this.
CROSTATips, exactly. Correct. And some of them are very important. You know, we already started three investigation in Eastern Africa specifically on ivory trafficking, based all of them on three separate leaks that we received.
REHMIs that in regard to elephants or rhinos or what?
CROSTAExactly. Those three leaks in particular are about ivory. But we receive the leaks about poaching of tigers in Sumatra, for example, or illegal fishing off Alaska or illegal logging in Malawi. So the leaks cover a variety of topics, of course.
REHMAnd then what do you do with those leaks?
CROSTASo whenever we can, we investigate ourselves. So we have our teams, and we work with the very experienced partners. Some of ours, including myself, has past in security and investigation and intelligence, also conservation. So we are merging those two fields, conservation with security and a profession in the intelligence. So we investigate in the field. Whenever it's not possible, we share with trusted law enforcement agency. We already done it several times. And sometimes we will share with media, and then together we decide maybe to make a story out of it.
REHMBut don't the poachers themselves have the same kind of equipment to show them, for example, where the elephants are, where the rhinos are, where the ivory is?
CROSTAThere is a risk. You know, whenever you put a collar on an elephant and then you track this elephant and you track it online, of course, because you have to use, you know, this kind of system, there is always the risk that somebody smart enough will enter the system and will use your data to find a rhino, to find an elephant.
REHMAndrea Crosta, he is the founder of WildLeaks. He is executive director of Elephant Action League. Short break here. And when we come back, we'll talk further, take your emails, your phone calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about how new technology is affecting both preservation in terms of forestry and conservation in terms of wildlife. Three guests are with me. Rebecca Moore is an engineering manager at Google and the founder of Google Earth Outreach. She joins us by Skype. Andrea Crosta is founder of WildLeaks and executive director of Elephant Action League.
REHMAnd Jon Hoekstra is chief scientist at the World Wildlife Fund. He's author of the "Atlas of Global Conservation" and a recent article in Foreign Affairs titled, "Networking Nature: How Technology is Transforming Conservation." And, Jon, talk about how conservationists in Kenya are using GPS and satellite to protect and monitor elephants.
HOEKSTRASure. It's an exciting application where they've used GPS collar. They've collared an elephant to be able to track its movements and understand its biology. But they've expanded the application to realize that if they knew where an elephant was moving, they could also use mapping technology to create a virtual fence. And so, if the elephant they're tracking comes to close to a village or to a farm and they're worried that it might raid a crop, they can send an alert.
HOEKSTRAThe elephant can essentially send in a text message to say, hey, I'm getting close to this village. And then the researchers can respond by alerting the village. And the village can take some actions to just deter the elephant and steer it another way. And they found that the elephants will learn. They're very smart animals, so they'll learn to take corridors where they're not going to be harassed.
HOEKSTRAAnd so they've used this technology both to understand where the elephants are going so they can provide for good corridors for their movements -- safe corridors for their movement, but then they've also used it as a tool to help reduce conflict with the local communities.
REHMAndrea, talk about the numbers of elephants now on the planet as opposed to, say, at the beginning of the 19th century.
CROSTAYes. The numbers are unbelievable. At the beginning of the 19th century, we still had an estimated 27 million elephants across Africa. At the beginning of the 20th century, we had only 5 million elephants left in Africa. Right now, we probably have between 3 and 400,000 top.
REHMAnd is it because of the...
REHM...desire for ivory?
CROSTAIt's because of the ivory trade. It's -- you know, in the 18th century, we were also involved because ivory was going also to the United States and Europe. Now the main problem is Asia, in particular, China.
REHMChina. And what efforts have been made with China to try to halt this use of ivory?
CROSTAThe legal ivory market in China is, in my opinion, the single most important factor behind elephant poaching. They have an illegal market. And whenever you have a legal market, you create the conditions to have an illegal market. So to loan to illegal ivory coming from Africa, that's the real problem.
REHMGoodness gracious. Have you seen an elephant with its ivory tusks removed?
CROSTASeveral. And it's moving just to think about it because they are -- maybe people don't know, but they are among the most intelligent creatures on earth. And they go through an incredible pain. You know, the poachers now, for example, in some part of eastern Africa, they don't use rifles anymore because they are noisy. So they use venom. And it's a very, very long painful death.
CROSTAThey -- you know, they walk for days and then in the end they collapse. And sometimes rangers have to, you know, to put them to sleep. So it's really inflicting pain and inflicting pain not just to a living creature, but inflicting pain to one of the most intelligent and emotionally charged creature we have on earth.
REHMAnd, Rebecca, to what extent can Google Earth Outreach help in that regard, not only with deforestation but with tracking these animals and protecting them from the kind of devastation elephants have undergone?
MOORENow, that's a great question, Diane. It's really the work of Earth Outreach, of my team, is to help foster the use of Google's mapping tools to make the -- make the world a better place. And we are working with thousands of nonprofits all over the world now to kind of empower to protect the planet and understand and conserve. The -- as Jon mentioned, you can put satellite tracking collars on animals and you can understand their GPS location in near real-time.
MOOREWhat we found some of our partners doing, for example, save the elephants is then getting that live data, overlaying it on Google Earth. They actually have a mission control center in Samburu in Kenya, where they are monitoring against the Google Earth imagery and the 3-D topography in this virtual world where the elephants actually are moving. And then they can have almost like a military situational awareness of where the animals are and understand, are they getting close to an area that's dangerous for poaching?
MOOREAre they getting close to agricultural fields where they might maraud those crops and then get in trouble? And then based upon seeing that, they then send their rangers out and can redirect to where the elephants are. So there are some really innovative applications of how this combination of data about, for example, animal movement in this rich context of this virtual world of Google Earth can empower, you know, much greater protection.
REHMAnd, Jon, how expensive is this tracking technology?
HOEKSTRAYeah. Right now, on the market, a lot of tracking tags cost in order of $5,000, which is quite a lot, especially when you're thinking about tagging multiple animals in multiple parks. So, fortunately, there are some great innovation going on that's trying to bring the cost down more to $500 or better yet even $100. So I think as the technology improves and becomes more affordable, it'll become more useful to all.
REHMSo how worried are you about tracking tools getting into the hands of the wrong people?
HOEKSTRAYeah. I think as Andrea said, it's a risk. I think it's a risk we have to take. But we have to take it in a smart way. So we need that information. It's very valuable information to help us protect those at the wildlife. I think we need to work with technology partners to understand how can we make that data secure.
HOEKSTRASo, how do we impose the same kind of data security that we might expect, you know, our banks or our hospitals to have for our financial and medical information? Can we make sure that we have that same state-of-the-art data security in place to protect the information about our wildlife that we value so much?
REHMAnd what kind of security is there, Andrea?
CROSTAI totally agree. There are few options. The important thing is to, as he said, start working on these issues with the professional mind. So go to professional to do this for work, like Google for example, and ask them to do the job. They know the solutions. And, of course, I agree, it's a risk that we have to take. They are very valuable information.
CROSTABut as I also see in other -- in other part of my work against traffickers and poachers, the bad guys are smarter than we think, are constantly ahead of us and ahead of law enforcement agencies. They are faster. They move money. They move ideas. The move people. And they move illicit goods. So don't underestimate these people.
REHMWell, if you don't underestimate them, you maybe eventually catch up with them. But then, what do you do when you catch up with them?
CROSTAWell, that's basically in a nutshell what we are trying to do. You know, we have to -- after -- after dozens of years of the same approach as we are trying to be creative and think out of the box and get professionals and idea from different fields and use them against these people.
REHMAnd now, Jon, even drones are coming into the picture. Talk about those.
HOEKSTRAYeah. So a very exciting development. We're starting to look at the application of drones or small unmanned aerial vehicles to give rangers and park protectors an extra vantage point to give them some eyes up in the sky where they can...
REHMWhere have these been used?
HOEKSTRAWe've been using -- World Wildlife Fund has been working with the Nepalese government for the last couple of years, already using drones first to just promote surveillance, just to be able to observe areas. You can get up high. One person instead of only being able to see what they can see from -- on foot or from their vehicle can now get up in the air a few hundred feet, fly for several kilometers and cover, you know, many square kilometers in an hour's time.
HOEKSTRASo it gives them a valuable tool just to survey and be aware of what's happening, you know, what animals might be around, what people might be around. And I think one of the most promising applications are the night vision that can be applied. You can use infrared cameras, so it gives the potential for rangers to be able to use a drone during the nighttime. And you could potentially see animals through their body heat.
HOEKSTRAYou could also see campfires, vehicle signatures or even people at night. So if you know people shouldn't be there, you can send out a (unintelligible) response.
REHMBut how many people are watching?
HOEKSTRAHow many -- well, probably not enough. One of the big challenges of using technology for conservation is the place where the wildlife lives are oftentimes remote, vast areas with very few people. And so it's a challenge to -- we don't have a lot of eyes right now in those places. Technology can hopefully help us put more eyes in place or be able to see further and see in more detail.
REHMAnd have you had total cooperation from Nepalese police and Nepalese government officials?
HOEKSTRAThe Nepal government has been outstanding to work with. They're very forward-thinking. They see themselves as innovators. They see the potential for this technology to help them stay one step ahead of the poachers and in a very, very bright spot. Amid all these poaching crisis around the world, Nepal has actually managed to have two years with zero poaching, where they lost no elephants, no rhinos, no tigers.
REHMI'm glad to hear that.
HOEKSTRAThe technology has helped them.
REHMAll right. Let's open the phones, 800-433-8850. First to Ed in Kalamazoo, MI. You're on the air.
EDYes. Well, I have two different questions. One is can this technology be used to monitor pollution? Like, let's say, water pollution, point, air pollution, point water pollution by the EPA and the United States? And, like, we just had a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie.
EDWhich was enormous. And the other question was, the polar bear population, is anybody tracking the polar bear population? Is it going up? Is it going down, et cetera?
REHMAll right, first question to you, Rebecca. Could these technologies be used here in the United States in talking pollution, water pollution and the like?
MOOREAbsolutely. There's a couple of ways it could be used. We actually are in a partnership right now with Environmental Defense Fund, just came out that we put air quality monitors on our Google street view cars that are driving around and we can measure with that methane and soon other particulate matters that affect human health and can create a very detail picture of the state of pollution in different -- in different cities.
MOOREAnd the portray that, as I mentioned before, against this near -- this very detailed picture of the planet. One of our goals, I guess I would say, is to try to democratize access to satellite data, to map data and give all of these organizations the opportunity to present information and tell a story and make a difference.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And then his second question about polar bears. Any information there, Jon?
HOEKSTRAWell, some exciting possibilities actually. So the way that polar bears are monitored today requires teams going out in airplanes, flying over the ice looking for polar bears in dark, distant, remote, rugged conditions. There are some tests being done right now exploring whether or not DNA technology might help us out and whether we might be able to collect DNA samples from things as innocuous as a polar bear footprint.
HOEKSTRAThey might leave fragments of DNA behind that we can collect. The ice is a nice preservative. So if we can catch some of those fragments, we might be able to sequence that DNA and start to identify individual polar bears and get a sense of their numbers. We do know they're declining, but we don't always know by how much. And that's a critical piece of information for conservation.
REHMI see. Interesting. Thanks for calling, Ed. Let's go to Zachary in St. Louis, MO. You're on the air.
ZACHARYHi, Diane. It's a privilege to be on the show.
ZACHARYI'm calling because I was UAV operator with the Army and it's always been disappointing to me to see the public perception of unmanned drone technology as being used primarily for violence. I'm very happy to hear that you guys are using it in the field. But I was curious about whether or not the stigma surrounding drone technology could present a problem as you move forward with peaceful uses for drones.
HOEKSTRAHi, Zachary, great question. And the short answer is, yes, we do run into that. People are nervous about the perception of drones being a militarized thing. They're worried about privacy. And so we do have to confront that and we have to develop -- kind of socialize people's comfort with these vehicles being used as a positive tool.
REHMAll right, to John Carlo (sp?) in Miami, FL. You're on the air.
JOHN CARLOHi. How you doing?
CARLOMy question was about the frequency of updates with Google Maps. I don't know if there's a technology, I guess, limit right now or investment or whatnot. But would that help more with, say, lobbying? And is there room for private industry there at all?
MOORESure. We are continually updating Google Maps. You know, our goal is to have the most accurate, fresh comprehensive map of the world and, in fact, kind of redefine even what it means to be a map. Some of you may know that we just recently acquired Skybox, which will allow us to make the imagery much more fresh in Google Maps and Google Earth. On the Google Earth engine side, which is our scientific platform, we're getting feeds from the NASA and U.S. Geological Survey everyday of imagery coming in.
MOOREAnd making that available to scientists to measure in near-real time working with, for example, World Resources Institute what is happening in the forest right now and issuing alerts. So it's really an exciting time right now. There are, I think, more than 160 satellites planned for launching over the next few years. So this ability to have this living, breathing dashboard of a planet is going to continue to improve.
REHMRebecca Moore, she is an engineering at Google and the founder of Google Earth Outreach. Short break. More of your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We've had several emails like this one from Thomas in Heartland, Michigan, who says, "I've always wondered could the tusks be removed from elephants while they're drugged, thereby eliminating them as a target for killing. Andrea.
CROSTANo. It's not possible. First of all, elephants need their tusk, first of all, to eat, but also to go through forests. So they really tusks. They're tools, very important tools for them. And then, in any case, it's not practical. It's like it's really -- is a very complex procedure to, you know, to sedate an elephant so, no, it's not possible, unfortunately.
REHMSo they kill the elephant first.
CROSTAYeah, they kill the elephant first and then very quickly, because they don't have time, they hack it off and run away.
REHMAnd what you're saying, Andrea, is that the small time poachers are not the problem. It's the traffickers.
CROSTAExactly. Small time poachers, you know, sometimes are just, you know, they just want to make a living and very often are poor people. And even when they are organized, that's the only thing maybe they can do. But the real threat to elephants are big-time traffickers, businessmen, corrupt government official, corrupt security officers who facilitate the poaching and make money out of it.
REHMAnd where do you find this most apparent?
CROSTAAcross all Africa. That's the situation, unfortunately.
REHMAcross all of Africa. Hum. Here's another email. "For those who share their data on Google Earth, what does Google do with the data and do they consider it proprietary to Google once it's uploaded to their platform?" Rebecca.
MOOREYeah. I think there's a lot of misunderstanding about this because just as anyone can, for example, make their own website and no one on the internet owns, you know, the data you put on your own website, if you create spacial information that you put on Google Earth, Google doesn't own it. We just provide this really rich geographic canvas for you to publish your data. Just as you can publish on a website, you can publish data on Google Earth.
MOOREBut you own the data. We don't own the data. And that's true for Google Maps as well.
REHMAnd let me repeat, for those of you who may have just joined us, at our website, drshow.org, we do have some time lapse maps from Google Earth's project on our website. On shows the growth of Las Vegas since 1984. The other the rapid building of highways, neighborhoods around Raleigh, North Carolina. Let's go back to the phones to Christina in St. Louis, Missouri. You're on the air.
CHRISTINAHi, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
CHRISTINAI just have a comment and maybe it can be discussed or at least brought to the attention. Although the elephant is the keystone species, we're responsible for keeping all of the other wildlife sustained in their areas. CITES determined in July to table the discussion of the ivory poaching trade until next year. In addition, the United States, which is the second largest purchaser of ivory, has not enforced the ban that was created in 1989 with a complete ban on ivory.
CHRISTINAEven though there are a few cities with a ban on anything accept antique ivory, it's very hard to prove. So to enforce those bans means that we will also cripple terrorism. Terrorism is responsible for -- like al-Shabbab, al-Qaida, are the ones who are giving the poachers the ammunition to kill these elephants and they're recruiting villagers to do so.
CHRISTINASo by stopping the ivory trade, you're stopping human trafficking, drug trafficking and that information is available by Born Free USA who's done a very in-depth report on this. So the only way to stop it is to stop digging from the ground up and to start enforcing the ban because CITES is not doing it and the United States could do it right now.
REHMAll right. Andrea.
CROSTAGenerally speaking, it's a valid point. I know very well the issue with terrorist organizations because I was part of the team who first discovered the link between ivory traffic and the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabbab, two years ago. It is a problem. I agree with you. CITES could do much more. United States government is doing something, but yeah, valid points.
REHMAll right. Do you want to add to that, John?
HOEKSTRAI would just add that, you know, I share your desire to see more done, as much done as is possible. But I think we also are very appreciative of actions that have been taken. For instance, the president issued an executive order directing the U.S. government to start taking stock of how can they help to address the wildlife trade. A commission was put together. The World Wildlife Fund CEO sits on that with a number of other environmental leaders advising.
HOEKSTRAAnd so I think we're seeing positive steps to recognize that the U.S. has a significant role to play in helping (word?) and break up this trafficking.
REHMBut the U.S. has not signed onto the ivory...
CROSTAThey're taking time, you know. There is -- on the CITES table, there is a thing called the -- it's basically a future mechanism to sell ivory so it means that there are countries, some African countries and some Asian countries, that still would like to sell ivory in the future and buy ivory in the future. Right now, there's a moratorium, they cannot.
CROSTASo I agree. Some countries are still hoping to be able to -- and that will be the end of elephants and so it is important to kill, of course, this kind of discussions at the very beginning.
REHMAll right. To Vanessa in Key West, Florida. You're on the air.
VANESSABravo, Diane. What a fantastic program. So apropos. And to your guests, John Hoekstra, Andrea Crosta and Rebecca Moore, bravo for what you're doing. I grew up in Kenya. Nairobi was my home town. My stepfather, David Allen, grew up the son of Bunny Allen, who was a celebrated hunter back in the 1930s, 1940s. He worked on "Mogambo," the movie.
VANESSASo at that point, it was considered rather a sort of a swashbuckling, grand affair to go out and hunt an elephant and so on. Hunting, as you all know, was banned in the 1970s. My stepfather, David Allen, had grown up as a, you know, a son of his father, a hunter, and made his living. So he then turned his safari business into a photographic safari business, which it remains today.
VANESSAAt the time that hunting was banned, the whites or the licensed hunters rued the day because they said, you know, what'll happen is we are the police on the ground who keep the poachers out because we've got licenses. We've got a right to be there and it's controlled. The moment we're out of the way, it's going to be mayhem. Sadly, that appears to be -- that fruition seems to -- that prediction seems to have come to fruition. What say you?
CROSTAYeah, yeah, I agree with you. It's was, at the time, a very slow decline and then in the last three, five years the decline was really rapid. Of course, the origin of all these, it's a growing consumer market in Asia, especially China, the new middle class. They have more money. They want to, you know, show off their wealth and buying ivory is one of the ways they have to show off.
REHMAnd what's being done to try to convince the Chinese to stop?
HOEKSTRADiane, if I can comment on Vanessa's point of having people on the ground that are committed to keeping an eye and keeping poachers out is a really vital one. And there are some hopeful signs, I think. There's some amazing accomplishments made by community conservancies in Kenya, in Tanzania, in Namibia where instead of perhaps the old kind of hunters that may have been around and licensed, now we see the local communities that have been there, they are there.
HOEKSTRAThey're gonna be there. And they're taking charge of protecting those wildlife resources because of the values that they provide. The key for that to work, there are two keys. One, you need to empower the communities. You need to give them the power and the tools to manage the wildlife on their own and you need to give them incentives.
HOEKSTRASo you need to make wildlife worth more alive than dead. And things like photographic safaris and the like, can be one of those mechanisms.
REHMSure, right. Absolutely.
CROSTAI would add also we have protect those communities, those courageous communities from traffickers, you know. Payer of task in Kenya is four, five years of salary for someone who has no salary, okay. So every time a trafficker approaches a village like that, he's actually exploiting the whole village.
MOOREYeah, I wanted to follow up on John's point about local communities. We're working -- the Google Earth outreach team is working with indigenous tribes all over the world who are starting to use mobile phones, right, smartphones as tools for vigilance. For example, the Surui tribe in the Brazilian Amazon, has seen a lot of illegal invasion of their land for logging.
MOOREAnd they are there on the ground and can literally monitor. They can take photographs and videos, GPS-located, with these phones that in near real time go onto a Google Map and they -- and use that to put pressure on authorities to enforce the law. And they've told us that it's giving them an authority that they never had before.
REHMInteresting. To Thomas in Merrimack, New Hampshire, hi, you're on the air.
THOMASThank you, Diane. Always great shows. I'm a first-time caller.
THOMASI'm just curious. Is there a way I can get a clearer view on Google Maps? I've always gone to Google Maps and then on satellite. When I hear of an interesting topic about a certain forest or conservation project, I try to zoom down. I used to be able to do that, like, in cities. I could actually make out different things. Today, (word?) cloud up that image because of terrorist threats or should I go to Google Earth?
THOMASI don't know where I can get a clearer view of...
REHMWhat about that, Rebecca?
MOOREWell, I'm not sure I totally understand the question, but the same satellite data is available in Google Maps and Google Earth and it's always getting better, right, we're always improving the resolution, the freshness and so on. So if you've ever been able to see it clearly before, it should be at least as good today. Maybe you just don't have as good an internet connection right now.
REHMAll right. Good luck to you, Thomas. And finally, to you, John, tell us about this new technique that conservationists are using, new software called Invest.
HOEKSTRAYeah. So Invest is very exciting software, very high-powered software that World Wildlife Fund has developed in a partnership with Stanford University, the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy. And it allows you to map and measure and quantify the value of nature. So we have a gut sense that nature is valuable to people in a variety of ways, the aesthetics, the recreational value, but there's also very utilitarian values, water supplies, timber supplies, fish supplies.
HOEKSTRAWe know that, but that, too often, is left out of our thinking as we make decisions about development and how we use natural resources. Invest make it possible for us to map and quantify, measure and value, those resources. And we hope that this is really gonna transform the way that we view changes that we make to the world and the trade-offs that we are and are not willing to make with respect to our natural resources and the wildlife that they support.
REHMNow, do I understand that companies like Coca-Cola and major governments are using this?
HOEKSTRAYeah. So very exciting accomplishment recently. We worked with the government of Belize. World Wildlife Fund worked with Belize to help them develop a coastal zone management plan. They're a coastal country. They rely on tourism, fishing. And as they think about development, Invest helps them make decisions about where to divest, where to protect in order to maximize their nature.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's to go to Michael in Oklahoma City. You're on the air.
MICHAELI am such an admirer of yours...
MICHAEL...but until now I haven't called.
REHMWell, I'm glad to have you.
MICHAELSo thanks for everything you do.
MICHAELAnd I'm very passionate about the elephant and the other poaching, but I don't think -- I think this is a half measure. I think this is a half of a solution. We're just watching the destruction in this way. If we only monitor and rely on teams of rangers that are forced to roam huge areas, we'll never stop these poachers. And I believe -- I don't believe that the other solutions that we're talking about should be abandoned, but I think a key piece of this is to recognize that it's emergency situation.
MICHAELThe destruction is exponential at this point. The price of ivory is far too high and we need to deploy armed drones to stop the poaching. We need to stop the poachers. We need to -- unfortunately, kill all the poachers that approach elephant herds and monitor these herds. And I'm very passionate about this, you can tell.
REHMYeah, I can hear that. We're talking about perhaps trying to stop them, perhaps trying to arrest them. Are they also being targeted for killing?
CROSTAOf course, our priority is not to kill poachers. As I said, some of them are just, you know, need money to support maybe a family of ten so you can also...
REHMBut how do you get at the traffickers, which, as you said, are the big problem?
CROSTAExactly. The key word here is intelligence. We need more intelligence in the field. We need to...
REHMWhere is that coming from?
CROSTAWell, we -- as elephant actually in WildLeaks, we are on the field. We create networks of potential whistleblowers. We are around our sources. We do investigations and then, when we have enough, we show it law enforcement. And this is the kind of job that has to be done also, of course, with the help, for example, of the U.S. government.
CROSTAYou know, I understand the (unintelligible) twist in Africa, you know, put boots on the ground and send weapons and send technology, but also send intelligence experts, would help a lot.
REHMAnd I think it would indeed. I think there are so many people like our last caller who are passionate about these creatures and feel we must do more to save them and conserve the resources of the planet. Thank you all so much for being here.
REHMJohn Hoekstra of World Wildlife Fund, Andrea Crosta, founder of WildLeaks, executive director of the Elephant Action League and Rebecca Moore, she's the founder of Google Earth Outreach. Thank you, again.
MOOREThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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