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The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge

The Best and Brightest Compete to Stop Illegal Wildlife Traffic

Ground Pangolin at Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. Also known as the Scaly Anteater, it actually walks on its hind feet. It uses its front feet for balance. It is a very rare sight to see since it is primarily nocturnal and is hunted for its scales (for traditional Chinese medicine). Photo by David Brossard. CC-by-sa/2.0/

Ground Pangolin at Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. Its scales are prized in traditional Chinese medicine.
Photo by David Brossard. Flickr: CC-by-sa/2.0

Wildlife trafficking is pushing many animals closer to extinction, threatening the livelihoods of people who rely on ecotourism, and is responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 rangers in the last decade. It’s not just elephants, rhinos, and tigers: worldwide consumer demand has pushed market prices for all kinds of animals and animal parts to record levels for exotic pets, trophies, luxury items and souvenirs, religious and cultural items, food, and traditional medicines.

This year, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in conjunction with the U.S. Global Development Lab, National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, and the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC created an incentive for science and tech communities to develop new and innovative ways to combat wildlife trafficking. The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge is hoping to find new and innovative solutions for four main issues:

  • Understanding and shutting down trafficking routes
  • Improving forensic tools and data gathering to build strong criminal cases
  • Reducing consumer demand for illegal wildlife products
  • Combatting corruption along the illegal wildlife supply chain

By the end of the year, the Challenge will award prize packages of $10,000 plus technical assistance, networking support, and recognition to further the proposed solutions. Prize winners will also have the chance to win a Grand Prize of $500,000.

USAID invited individuals and organizations from a wide variety of fields and specialties to participate, including wildlife biologists, software engineers, criminologists, forensic scientists, social media analysts, and university researchers. Submissions came from 52 countries, 67% from outside the US.

44 finalists—individuals and organizations—have been selected from about 300 applicants. The proposed solutions are diverse and innovative, including proposals that would create a wildlife genetic database in South Asia,  a computer system that enables whistleblowers to safely communicate their allegations to appropriate authorities, and a system for passive acoustic monitoring and automated detection of shark finning boats—and many more (see the summaries of the proposals).

Support the winners of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge with your expertise.

According to the website, beginning in early 2016, the Challenge will “help accelerate the development of winning solutions by offering targeted support and technical assistance.”

The Challenge is looking for individuals or groups who will work with Prize Winners to accelerate product development and help bring solutions to new markets and new users. Depending on the solution, the type of technical assistance required may include business planning, evaluation of social impact, communications and messaging, pitch training and links to finance, market entry advice, user experience testing, organizational development, and rapid prototyping and design support. If you are interested in providing support and technical assistance to Prize Winners, please contact the Challenge Team via info@wildlifecrimetech.org.


Comment: The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge

  1. Thank you very much for your detailed review, it was very interesting and informative.

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