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Leveraging The Power of Technology to Protect Sarawak’s Flora and Fauna

2021.11.30

KUCHING, 30 NOVEMBER 2021 – The Sarawak Multimedia Authority (“SMA”), together with the Forest Department Sarawak, Sarawak Forestry Corporation (“SFC”), Huawei Technologies (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. (“Huawei”) and Rainforest Connection (A US-based non-profit organisation) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on a project that leverages technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Enterprise Intelligence (EI) to protect Sarawak’s rainforests, which are some of the oldest rainforests in the world.

Dubbed the “Rainforest Guardian Research Project”, the collaboration will enable the Sarawak Government to sustainably conserve and protect its rainforests and all its inhabitants -- and in doing so, enable those living in the state to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the rainforests of Sarawak, which is 62% or 7,721,615 hectares of the state land mass.

The project involves the use of solar-powered devices equipped with microphones and antennas that collect sound data which then transmit the data through wireless networks to the cloud, where it is analyzed by Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered analytics. Each Guardian device is placed in the forest's canopy and can operate 24 hours a day for two years, collecting ambient sound data over an area of three square kilometers in diameter.

When the sound signature of a potential threat such as a chainsaw, truck, or gunshot is detected (with AI), an alarm is generated. The location of the respective Rainforest Guardian is shown in an app that local rangers can quickly mobilise and seek out the source of the alert. To date, five Guardians have been deployed in Sarawak’s rainforests.

These technologies will also aid researchers in collecting data on animal species of interest, their behaviour and movements in real time. This will allow for better protection and conservation efforts, to ensure that future generations will be able to experience the diverse flora and fauna of Sarawak’s rainforests in real-life, and not from a recording.

It is in Sarawak’s best interest to ensure that her rainforests are well-protected and remain a sustainable source of medicine, food and livelihood for many rural Sarawakians. At the same time, this ground breaking project plays into Malaysia’s standing as one of the 12 mega diverse countries in the world as the member of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People. The project is also in line with the Sarawak Digital Economy Strategic Action 41, to collect data from current and future digital services, to support data-driven decision-making.

“The advent of efficient, robust and powerful hardware plus innovation has expanded the capability of such a meaningful project. The huge amount of real-time data generated will invariably contribute to the state’s Big Data (the next oil) agenda” said Dr Zaidi Razak, General Manager of SMA.

“Rainforest Connection (RFCx) is elated to collaborate on our first ever project in Malaysia. Together, in conjunction with Huawei, the Government of Sarawak represented by the Forest Department Sarawak, the Sarawak Forestry Corporation, and the Sarawak Multimedia Authority, we are establishing next-generation technology to contribute to the work already being done to protect and understand the precious, biodiverse ecosystem in Sarawak,” said Topher White, CEO & Founder of Rainforest Connection.

“RFCx is providing the real-time acoustic monitoring hardware and a platform that runs on the Huawei cloud to make it possible to analyze the sounds of the forest using AI to pick out any threats and create a sound bank of all of the fauna present. We look forward to seeing how this pilot project will grow into large-scale monitoring across Sarawak and Malaysia,” said Mr White.

“As the ‘Custodians of Sarawak’s Forests’, the responsibility is on us to manage and conserve forest resources for the purpose of ensuring socioeconomic and environmental sustainability. It is our duty to ensure that Sarawak’s forests – the crown jewel of the state -- remain lush and green, and at the same time, carry out its ecological services and functions. To this end, we are proud to be partnering with a technology leader like Huawei Malaysia – this collaboration will provide us the necessary technological tools and solutions that will intensify our efforts to conserve and preserve our diverse and resource-rich forests,” said Dato’ Hamden Mohammad, Director of Forests, Sarawak.

“We have been mandated to protect Sarawak’s wildlife, and it is our mission to manage totally protected areas and conserve wildlife through innovation and best practices. In this regard, we are proud to be playing a role in the Rainforest Guardian Research Project and working closely with trusted technological partners such as Huawei and RFCx to install the devices at Similajau National Park, Bintulu. This technology has had a major impact on ecological protection, completely transforming the operations of those working hard to save rainforests and its wildlife, including the Sarawak Forestry Corporation,” according to the CEO of SFC, Zolkipli Mohamad Aton, who is also the Controller of National Parks and Nature Reserves, and Controller of Wild Life.

Mr. Michael Yuan, CEO of Huawei Malaysia, said that as Sarawak’s rainforests make up two-thirds of the state, it was vital that all parties do everything they can to conserve and preserve its precious flora and fauna.

“Huawei believes in the power of technology to bring rainforest conservation and preservation efforts to the next level, and as a global technology leader, it is our duty to use our resources and expertise to help drive conservation and preservation for the benefit of our future generations,” he said.

“To help restore ecosystems and promote their sustainable use, cutting-edge scientific and technological solutions applications are required. This project deploys such solutions to protect nature, prevent deforestation, and safeguard against biodiversity loss.Our ‘Guardians’ will be able to protect Sarawak’s rainforests for future generations,” Mr. Yuan added.