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(Beijing China, April 22, 2020)
Today, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Baidu launched an artificial intelligence (AI) -powered tool to identify images of endangered wildlife products traded online. Named "AI Guardian of Endangered Species”, this tool was jointly developed by IFAW and Baidu’s open-source deep learning platform PaddlePaddle as they recognized the need to use new technologies to address the increasingly various ways in which suspected illegal traders were trying to avoid detection as the supervision from internet platforms and law enforcement agencies increasingly strengthened. After 5 months of testing and optimization with PaddlePaddle, the AI Guardian tool currently has a 75% accuracy rate for recognizing images of elephant ivory, tiger canine tooth, skin, claws and pangolin scale and claws. During the test period, the AI Guardian helped recognize 3348 illegal wildlife products pictures from about 250,000 picture messages from different Chinese online platforms.
With internet technology rapidly evolving, illegal wildlife trade has been shifting from offline to online platforms for years.
The rapid development and disruptive impact of wildlife cybercrime has attracted extensive attention of conservation groups and internet companies. In March 2018, IFAW, WWF and TRAFFIC joined forces with 21 internet giants including Alibaba, Baidu, Google, Microsoft and Tencent to form the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, with members removing or blocking over 3 million listings for endangered and threatened species and associated products from their online platforms to date.
However, as platform providers strengthen their efforts to regulate wildlife cybercrime, sellers have become more vigilant and are constantly exploring new ways to avoid detection, including transitioning from using code words to images, short videos, and live-streaming to convey the wildlife products they sell. For instance, in 2019 during a one-month in-depth patrolling of a popular social media app in China, IFAW found that 49% of the 6,396 illegal wildlife advertisements only rely on product pictures and the text information does not contain any key information about the species.
“We have to stay innovative in order to tackle evolving challenges posed by traders of endangered wildlife products,” said PENG Cong, program officer of IFAWs Wildlife Crime Prevention program. “The AI Guardian of Endangered Species has been trained using the images that IFAW has accumulated in the past decade, and it will significantly improve the efficiency and coverage of our regular online research.”
“Baidu has always adhered to an ethos of creating a better world through technology and we view it as a responsibility to use our technological capabilities to protect wildlife,” said Tian Wu, Corporate Vice President of Baidu. “We will open source the recognition model for the ‘AI Guardian of Endangered Species’, and third-party developers and researchers can build their own innovative tools for protecting biodiversity through PaddlePaddle , our fundamental AI software platform. Meanwhile, the PaddlePaddle team will continue to strive to make the ‘AI Guardian of Endangered Species’ more intelligent, accurate, and effective.”
"The current tragic COVID-19 pandemic forces every single one of us to reflect on the relationship we have with wildlife and nature,” said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director of IFAW. “I hope the AI Guardian for Endangered Species can support enforcement agencies and platform regulators to better tackle wildlife crime linked to the internet. Also I call on everyone to refrain from wildlife consumption and report illegal wildlife trade they find online.”
For more information, please contact:
Annelyn Close, IFAW International, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sabrina Zhang, IFAW China, email@example.com
Baidu International Communications: Intlcomm@baidu.com
About International Fund for Animal Welfare
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans, and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate, and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations, and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org.
PaddlePaddle, Baidu’s open-source deep learning platform, is the first industrial-grade, fully-functional deep learning platform in China. It is equipped with an easy-to-develop core framework, large-scale deep learning model training technology, a high-performance inference engine that can be deployed on different terminals and platforms, and an industrial-grade open-source model library. PaddlePaddle has established a fully-functional and comprehensive system for deep learning development, training, and deployment, lowering the barriers for applying AI technology in different industries. PaddlePaddle has supported more than 1.5 million developers in total, giving it an important role in many economic sectors and aspects of people’s lives.