Daring activists use high-tech to track illegal logging trucks in the Brazilian Amazon

15 October 2014

Every night empty trucks disappear into the Brazilian Amazon, they return laden with timber. This timber —illegally cut —makes its way to sawmills that sell it abroad to places like the U.S., Europe, China, and Japan using fraudulent paperwork to export the ill-gotten gains as legit. These findings are the result of a daring and dangerous investigation by Greenpeace-Brazil that had activists hanging out with truckers and illegal loggers, all the while surreptitiously tagging trucks with GPS locator beacons. The high-tech equipment allowed the organization to track where the logging trucks went.

"Illegal logging can be hard to get to tackle. Logging happens deep in the forest, far from the eyes of the world," reads a blog on the mission by Greenpeace. "But all that is changing. Covert GPS tracking technology and satellite surveillance means we can find out what loggers are really up to —and tell the world about it."

The organization's findings are published in a new report entitled Amazon's Silent Crisis: Night Terrors, focusing on sawmills in Santarém in Pará. After tracking the trucks —which only move at night to avoid police scrutiny —the group followed up with satellite surveillance and even overflights to document how illegal loggers are still stripping the Amazon.

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