A significant challenge in conservation is the quantification of threats, conservation effort, and the impact of conservation interventions. Conservation staffs of protected areas working to protect wildlife and their habitats are often limited by the availability of data, technical capacity, and access to appropriate technology and analytical tools. Such limitations are often particularly marked in regions where highly endangered species occur and where the degree of threat is high. The Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) is Critically Endangered and occurs in an environment where the threats posed by bushmeat hunting, conversion of forest for agriculture and small-scale logging are significant.
In 2008, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and several national agencies, we implemented a mobile computer-based monitoring system across the range of the Cross River gorilla to assess both threats to the gorillas and the extent of law enforcement activities.
This system, based on the Cybertracker software application, has allowed us to quantitatively measure threat, protection and biological data using information collected during the course of ranger, ecoguard and research patrols and surveys. The use of an intuitive user interface designed in consultation with the end-users, ruggedized hand-held computers, and an easy to use suite of analysis tools has allowed us to document both successes and failures in Cross River gorilla conservation. Lessons learned in the deployment of the Cybertracker-based system are now being used to inform the SMART law enforcement monitoring tool, recently developed by a broad partnership of conservation NGOs.