In September, we posted about an online whistleblowers platform WildLeaks that takes down powerful poaching networks and wildlife trafficking operations through sharing anonymous information. How does this information operate in the field and assist officials to make informed decisions to stop wildlife crime? Smartphones help!
A new study named “Mobile decision-tree tool technology as a means to detect wildlife crimes and build enforcement networks" concludes that by making use of the internet and mobile apps, field workers can easily identify illegally traded wildlife and products locally via user-friendly decision-tree tools accessed online.
Let’s look at a successful piloting case in China, where its ivory addiction gave rise to the illegal ivory trade from Tanzania and put the latter country’s elephant population in jeopardy. To help combat the illegal import of ivory products, new mobile technology, called Wildlife Guardian, has been introduced. On-the-ground training is carried out to introduce Wildlife Guardian to law enforcement agencies. The main features of this mobile tool, like computer-guided species ID and law, GPS geolocation and regulations cookbook, bring all necessary data to officials to decide whether or not to let an item through an import checkpoint.
Developed by the Chinese branch of the Wildlfe Conservation Society, the app uses a three step process to confirm species identity. If that does not work, the app outsources the request to external scientists who usually provide an answer within 24 hours. From there, officials are able to tell whether the incoming animal or animal product is part of an illegal trade and, if so, take the necessary next steps. Hopefully more of this kind of technology will be developed in other important wildlife trade hubs and consumption centres in the world to fight against wildlife crimes.