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Sumatran Tigers release

Using geospatial data to discover new homes

Recently, Space4Good and our partners saw the successful site identification and relocation of a Sumatran tiger! With the ever growing human populations and the derived change of the land use, it becomes essential to strategically and carefully plan wildlife release operations. Space4Good is collaborating with Arsari Djojohadikusumo Foundation (YAD), offering remote sensing analysis to identify suitable spots for the release of tigers in Sumatra Island, Indonesia. In the past, the release of some tigers was followed by reports of sightings of these giant cats waltzing down main roads and strutting into residential areas. To avoid this, a diverse set of metrics needs to be considered to better mitigate human-wildlife conflicts like these. That’s where integrated monitoring approaches, like that of Space4Good’s, come in.

Space4Good conducted a geospatial analysis to identify optimal spots for releasing tigers into the wild. The proposed methods of analysis are based on the combination of satellite-based products and geo-spatial operations, allowing for swift investigations, especially for vast areas. In order to avoid human-wildlife conflict after the release , the ideal spots were located at least 20 km away from agricultural lands and urban settlements. Furthermore, to better facilitate the landing operations of the helicopters and release of the airlifted animals, clear spots with no vegetation and with a relatively flat surface needed to be identified.

Figure 1: Tiger releasing in Sumatra Island.

Space4Good conducted the analysis starting from the Land Cover Map. These types of maps contain the spatial information on the classes of physical coverage of the Earth's surface, e.g. forests, grasslands, croplands, lakes, wetlands. Various classes were merged, such as agriculture and urban settlements, around which a 20km buffer zone was established.

We then went on to identify suitable areas after which a deeper visual check was conducted by our experts, and using high resolution satellite imagery, locations suitable for helicopter landings were identified. The exact coordinates were retrieved and communicated to the Foundation.

In close collaboration with staff in the field, locations were soon validated as suitable or not and the project could then commence. It was important to note, however, that with the swift expansion of human-based activities and the rapid changes in the landscapes, it becomes extremely important to regularly update Land Cover and Land Use maps to ensure site identification can be swiftly and accurately.

In the last 20 years, YAD has been active in different domains, carrying out a variety of education, environment and social programmes. In July 2020, the Foundation signed a collaboration agreement with Riau KSDA Center to strengthen biodiversity conservation efforts in Giam Siak Kecil and Bukit Batu Wildlife Reserves. The main goal of the development? The rescue, rehabilitation and release activities of Sumatran tigers and other wild species to their natural habitats.

Even in the vast area of Sumatra Island, it's alarming to realize how confined the wildlife are due to ever decreasing habitats. It is paramount, now more than ever, to join the efforts and utilise available technologies to protect the natural habitats and all the derived biodiversity to live with nature, not against it.

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