How Your Old Cellphone Could Help Stop Illegal Logging And Poaching

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ILLEGAL LOGGING
Moss covers an oak tree at Comana forest south from Bucharest January 24, 2014. | DANIEL MIHAILESCU via Getty Images

This story originally appeared on Mother Nature Network.

Did you know that Americans throw away 150 million cellphones every year? Well now there's a new way to put some of those old phones to use. A startup called the Rainforest Connection plans to turn old, unwanted Android phones into sophisticated listening devices that can help prevent illegal logging and poaching. After a successful pilot to test the idea, the company has turned to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to launch the project more broadly and is seeking $100,000 in funding.

Here's how the idea works: Rainforest Connection will gather the phones, trick them out with special software, and hook them up to a microphone and an array of small solar panels. The modified devices will then be placed high in trees in vulnerable forests. The phones will be hidden away from the prying eyes of poachers, but they will still be able to spy on the surrounding rain forest. The microphone will pick up and identify certain sounds — chainsaws, gunshots, animals' distress cries, and other signs of illegal activity up to 1 kilometer away — and immediately transmit the location to law-enforcement officials. This real-time data would allow officials to respond quickly enough to stop the illegal activity, arrest the perpetrators and maybe even save the trees and animals.

The phones will not only help protect trees and endangered species, they will also have a direct effect on the planet. Rainforest Connection says each of their deployed phones will save 300 hectares of forest. This will provide a CO2 benefit the equivalent of removing 3,000 cars from the road for a year.

Backers of the crowdfunding project can receive a variety of rewards, including regular photo updates, carbon offsets, and a handbook that will show you how to hack your own Android device to create your own monitoring device. Pledges of $250 or more will protect sections of forest, which will be named after the backers.

If the Kickstarter project is successful — and it's already 33 percent of the way there after only three days — Rainforest Connection says it will deploy their modified phones in Africa and Brazil, protecting between 200 and 300 kilometers of forest. If the crowdfunding project exceeds its goals, Rainforest Connection will also release a free app that will allow anyone to hear the sounds of the rain forest from any of their anti-poaching phones.

You can see more about the Rainforest Connection project, including a testimonial from musician Neil Young, below:

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