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Roundtable to look at how tech can combat Illegal Wildlife Crime

techUK will be holding a roundtable on 20 June with the FCO to discuss how the UK tech sector can support international efforts.

In October, the UK government is to host an international conference on illegal wildlife trade. A key theme will be the role of technology in combatting this £17bn trade. techUK will be holding a roundtable on 20 June with the FCO to discuss how the UK tech sector can support international efforts.

Second to habitat loss, the illegal trade of wildlife is considered the biggest threat to many endangered species. Many species are now being pushed ever closer to extinction to satisfy huge demand for such things as medicines, collectables, pets and clothing.

The illegal wildlife trade not only endangers some of our most iconic species of wildlife, but is a serious organised crime and damages the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest communities.

Some examples of illegal wildlife trade are well known, such as poaching of elephants for ivory and tigers for their skins and bones. However, countless other species are similarly overexploited, from marine turtles, butterflies and pangolins to timber trees and flowers.

By its very nature, it is almost impossible to obtain reliable figures for the value of illegal wildlife trade. Experts at TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, estimate that it runs into hundreds of millions of dollars.

Harnessing technology to combat this trade is one of the key themes up for discussion at the conference on 10-11 October.

techUK is working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Royal Society to showcase the potential of the UK tech sector in supporting NGOs, enforcement and border authorities addressing this growing challenge.

Already there are some compelling examples of how technology is making a difference

  • Inmarsat use its tech to support Vessel Monitoring Systems to improve the policing of illegal fishing and surveillance of conservation areas in Indonesia. 
  • new partnership between Dimension Data and Cisco is working to dramatically reduce poaching of rhinos in South Africa, using CCTV, drones with infrared camera, thermal imaging vehicle tracking sensors, as well as seismic sensors being deployed on a highly secure intelligent network in the Kruger National Park in South Africa.
  • TheWildlabs initiativebrings together major technology providers and community projects through a knowledge and information sharing platform for conservation challenges including Illegal Wildlife Trade.
  • Tata is using surveillance drones/UAVs in India’s Kaziranga National Park, home to two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos as well as elephants, tigers and other wildlife. The drones are capable of fully autonomous flights and can carry thermal imaging and mapping equipment as well as day and night-capable video cameras. Images can be recorded on board and monitored on the ground in real time allowing park authorities to monitor even the most remote parts of the 480km2 national park. 
  • In March, some of the world’s leading e-commerce, technology and social media companies, including Alibaba, eBay, Facebook, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft and Pinterest joined forces with Google and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to render online platforms and apps inoperable for wildlife traffickers to trade in endangered species. They have pledged to reduce wildlife trafficking across platforms by 80% by 2020.

But there is likely to be other tech solutions, being applied elsewhere, which can be deployed in this space too. And this is what the government is keen on discovering. We will be convening a roundtable with the FCO and wildlife organisations on 20 June (10.00 - 12.00) to explore the potential, with some of the best ideas presented to the Foreign Secretary at a meeting in July.

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