A new iPhone app makes it easy for users to take geo-referenced, time-stamped photos or videos and to report issues related to illegal use, or abuse, of natural resources.
The British Columbia Wildlife Federation's Conservation App works both in and out of service areas using the phone’s GPS and reports are sent to a secure server and then forwarded automatically to the appropriate enforcement agency.
"We created the BCWF Conservation App to give all British Columbians a tool to allow us to fulfill our individual responsibility as citizens in changing the way we see, use, conserve, protect and value our natural landscape," a BCWF spokesperson said.
The mobile app and website was created by the Spatial Information for Community Engagement (Spice) Lab at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna.
Applauding the new app, Sgt. Jeff Tyre of the Conservation Officer Service Cariboo Chilcotin region said the COS welcomes more eyes and ears across the province to help guard against illegal activities that can harm ecosystems and beautiful natural spaces.
"Thank you to the BC Wildlife Federation for bringing public awareness to ongoing conservation efforts," Tyre said.
Since April 1, 2016 the local COS has received 279 complaints of unlawful poaching and or polluting, received almost exclusively due to concerned citizens calling or e-mailing the RAPP Line (Report All Poachers and Polluters 1-877-952-7277), Tyre said.
"These days almost everybody that recreates carries a cell phone and if you carry an iPhone this app will make it even easier to report poachers and polluters to the RAPP Line and give Conservation Officers the necessary information to carry out an investigation and take enforcement action if warranted," Tyre added.
During the 2016 deer and moose hunting season in Region 5, Cariboo/Chilcotin conservation officers dealt with numerous files reported through the RAPP Line.
"When it comes to solving a poaching offence every detail is important, but the single detail that will help us solve the case the quickest ( and which is often overlooked) is the licence plate number of any vehicle involved," Tyre said. "From that we can get a description of the vehicle, the registered owner (RO), a criminal record of the RO, description, age and a phone number. You can imagine if conservation officers are looking for a white F150 pickup travelling between Quesnel and Williams Lake that could be a lot of vehicles but if we had a licence plate number it would help."
Pictures are worth a thousand words and are extremely strong evidence in court, Tyre said.
He also noted that members of the public should never put themselves in danger or into a conflict situation to get pictures, make observations or get the licence plate number.
"We’ll do the best we can with the details provided," he said.