Using technology to fight the illegal wildlife trade

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The trade of illegal animal products is valued at £17 billion per year, and sits fourth as the most lucrative crime after drugs, weapons and human trafficking. The statistics on the plight of wildlife are well documented, and from tiger bones used in traditional medicines to ivory jewellery as an indicator of wealth, there is still growing demand for endangered animal products.

In an industry driven by the need of conservation bodies and, to an extent, animals that need protection from criminal organisations profiting from their trafficking, using technology to combat conservation challenges is gaining support. Not only to protect animals while crimes are happening, but to prevent them too.

Last year’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) brought together a number of organisations including Digital Catapult, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), United For Wildlife, The Royal Foundation, Google, Microsoft and the Satellite Applications Catapult, to look at how expertise in varying fields could aid in the adoption of technology in three key areas.

  • In the field: Stopping poachers killing endangered animals
  • At borders: Vast numbers of illegal wildlife products pass through customs every day
  • Online: Sellers use social media and parts of the dark web to create a marketplace for illegal wildlife products.

What barriers exist to integrate technology into conservation? To read more, please visit the Digital Catapult website.