Could you win the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge?

USAID, in partnership with National Geographic, Smithsonian and TRAFFIC, has launched a global competition to find innovative science and technology solutions to tackle the illegal trade in endangered marine and terrestrial wildlife – a grave threat to many species as well as to economic development and security.

Glass in the lab. Credit: Steven Lilley/Flickr Creative Commons.

The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge is seeking innovative science and technology solutions to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. Credit: Steven Lilley/Flickr Creative Commons.

Applicants to the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge are invited to submit a concept note by 30 June 2015, describing how their innovation will help address one or more of four key wildlife trafficking issues:

  • Detecting transit routes – wildlife traffickers use complex routes to transport their illegal products around the world. Applicants are invited to submit ideas that will help monitor existing transit routes, predict future routes and detect online trade. Find out more.
  • Strengthening forensic evidence and data sharing – it is often difficult or costly to distinguish legal from illegal wildlife products, which makes it hard to enforce customs control and successfully prosecute traffickers. Applicants are invited to submit ideas that will ensure more accurate, timely and cost-effective collection of forensic evidence, and sharing of forensic data. Find out more.
  • Reducing consumer demand – illegal wildlife trade is ultimately fuelled by the demand for wildlife products, but this demand itself is driven by a wide range of social and cultural factors. Applicants are invited to submit ideas for raising awareness about the conservation consequences of purchasing illegal wildlife products, and for changing consumer attitudes and behaviour. Find out more.
  • Tackling corruption – encountered at every step of the supply chain, corruption (in the form of bribery, diplomatic cover, cronyism and money laundering) is a major impediment to fighting wildlife crime. Applicants are invited to submit ideas to help tackle this major component of wildlife crime. Find out more.

Protecting species at the source

Alongside habitat loss and climate change, the illegal trade in endangered wildlife is one of the most universal and pressing threats to our planet’s biodiversity. According to figures presented by United for Wildlife, 35,000 elephants are being illegally killed each year, while rhino poaching has increased by 5,000% in the last five years.

The breathtaking speed at which we are losing our wildlife – both plants and animals – means that urgent action is needed on the ground to protect remaining populations before it is too late.

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working hard with partners around the world to provide this protection and keep wildlife safe while we work both locally and internationally to address the underlying causes of illegal hunting and trade.

Last year, for example, Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo experienced a sudden and massive surge in illegal poaching, with helicopters and military-grade weapons used to wipe out entire herds of elephants. Through the Rapid Response Facility, FFI was able to help partners step up protection efforts in the park and put a stop to the worst of the poaching.

Despite this, the situation in Garamba is still grave. Tragically, ranger Agoyo Mbikoyo was killed by armed poachers in April this year, and his case is far from isolated. According to United for Wildlife, a staggering 1,000 park rangers have been killed worldwide in the last 10 years.

Working together

Every step of the illegal wildlife chain is fraught with difficulties that must be overcome if we are to address this global crisis. The scale of the challenge is unprecedented, and to meet it we need to work together.

United for Wildlife is an alliance between seven of the world’s leading conservation organisations (including FFI), led by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

As well as fostering collaboration between these organisations, United for Wildlife also calls on people like you to lend your support and expertise to the cause.

By taking part in the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, you could make a very real difference – in fact, your idea could mean the difference between extinction or survival for some of the world’s most iconic wildlife.

In the meantime, FFI will continue to work with our local and international partners to secure wild populations and address the driving forces behind unsustainable wildlife trade.

Images courtesy of Richard Corfield/Flickr and Steven Lilley/Flickr, shared under a Creative Commons licence.