The Taronga Conservation Society in Australia, in partnership with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has developed a natty piece of technology that will turn tourists in South-East Asia into on-the-spot illegal trade informers.
The Wildlife Witness app means that users who suspect that they are standing in front of illegally procured wildlife goods can take immediate action. All they have to do is take a photograph, pin the exact location and hit ‘send’ to whisk the evidence off for analysis. These user reports will not only contribute towards a fuller understanding of illegal trade in the region, but also to help prioritise response actions and to highlight areas where enforcement resources are needed.
‘With just a few taps on their smartphones, users can do two important things – learn how their purchasing decisions influence the illegal trade that threatens wildlife and contribute reports that will help build a more informed picture of this threat,’ said Chris R. Shepherd, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director – South-East Asia.
Illegal wildlife trafficking is worth as much as US$20-billion to global crime syndicates and with money of that order at stake Wildlife Witness users need to be careful not to place themselves at risk. Michael Safi reporting in theguardian.com quotes Dr Kira Husher, a conservation manager at Taronga Zoo: ‘It’s important that members of the community don’t take on the role of detective. We’re just asking people to be sensible and take discreet notes and photos where possible, and where it’s safe to do so.’
‘Wildlife Witness is the first global community action tool to tackle illegal wildlife trade. The app makes reporting these activities simple for both tourists and locals and will help give TRAFFIC the information they need to help address this global wildlife crisis.’
Wildlife Witness is a free download from the iTunes App Store and is soon to be available for Android smartphones.