Amnesty International Picks Planet Labs to Tackle Deforestation

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Planet Labs PBC, a provider of daily data and insights about Earth, has shared a recent project tackling deforestation in Cambodia with Amnesty International, an international non-governmental organization focused on human rights. With Planet’s daily satellite monitoring capabilities, Amnesty International is working to identify and shed light on environmental and human rights abuses in the region.

Using Planet’s datasets, Amnesty International is currently working to protect the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, southeast Asia’s largest lowland evergreen forest spanning approximately 500,000 hectares across four provinces of Cambodia. Designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 2016, Prey Lang is government-protected land, containing diverse flora and fauna.

This land plays a vital role in the traditions, local customs, and beliefs of indigenous people and local communities. Yet, recent events have weakened the sanctuary’s natural defenses and degraded its borders.

To protect this important region, Amnesty has been using Planet’s unique satellite capabilities. Planet owns and operates the world’s largest Earth observation constellation with over 200 satellites currently in orbit. These satellites provide a line scanner of the Earth, imaging every terrestrial location on the planet every single day. By providing unprecedented insights of global change, Planet enables their customers to monitor environmental degradation and illegal activities to hold global actors accountable.

Using Planet data, Amnesty International has effectively identified and tracked illegal activity within the Prey Land Wildlife Sanctuary’s borders. Given the vast size of the sanctuary, the high frequency of cloud coverage, and the level of detail required to monitor individual tree level deforestation, Amnesty International adopted Planet’s daily imaging services and high resolution capabilities to effectively monitor deforestation happening in real-time.

“We believe global transparency enables global sustainability, and our satellites provide datasets and tools that can support global NGOs in the vital work they do. Amnesty International does incredible work protecting human rights and vital ecosystems, and we’re proud to support that team and their work,” said Planet CEO and co-founder Will Marshall.

To better monitor the Sanctuary, Amnesty International employs a “tip and cue” strategy with Planet’s satellites. This process uses Planet’s medium resolution, high-frequency PlanetScope images as a tip-off to identify forest change in areas of concern, and then Amnesty International cues a satellite tasking order for a high-resolution Planet SkySat satellite to take an image of the area in greater detail.

“High-resolution imagery is actually quite rare over these wildlife sanctuaries in Cambodia, so we’ve had to be resourceful with the lower resolution imagery and develop areas of interest to task with high resolution since the protected areas are very large,” explained Micah Farfour, a Special Advisor in Remote Sensing for Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Program.

In addition to monitoring deforestation, Planet data helps Amnesty International detect land clearing for road development or agriculture, and they recently identified a new road on the other side of the sanctuary’s eastern boundary, which could potentially lead to the continued spread of illegal deforestation.

“A lot of the access comes from the edges, the boundaries, where there are roads already established, but sometimes potentially from the villages. The new road not only increased access to the area, it provided an easy route for the illegal logging and transport of timber outside of the sanctuary,” said Farfour.

Planet’s critical work with Amnesty provides a blueprint for greater transparency and better monitoring of potential illegal activities. With these insights from space, Amnesty International is able to form an objective picture of actions on the ground and build greater transparency to move beyond responsive monitoring to results-driven advocacy.


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