Disrupting Wildlife Cybercrime – GlobalWildlife crime is a matter of supply and demand
(Bangkok, Thailand – 21 October, 2022) – Civil society groups from across Southeast Asia met today to explore ways to improve their abilities to combat wildlife cybercrime—the illegal online trade of wild animals.
The Workshop to Enhance Capacity of CSOs (Civil Society Organizations) to Tackle Wildlife Cybercrime in Great Mekong Region and Malaysia, organized by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), included more than 40 delegates, representing 16 domestic and international organizations from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China.
“The region has some of the world’s richest biodiversity in the world, and it also has a fast-growing online market,” said Grace Ge Gabriel, IFAW Asia Regional Director.
“Despite enormous challenges many Southeast Asian organizations have invested in innovative and politically sensitive approaches in tackling wildlife cybercrime. However, a more significant coordinated national and international action is needed to effectively disrupt wildlife cybercrime in the long term.”
The workshop was supported by the European Union-funded initiative Partners Against Wildlife Crime.
Wildlife cybercrime—wildlife crime linked to the internet—poses one of the biggest challenges to counter wildlife crime effort in recent decades.
COVID-19 restrictions have led to a significant downward trend in seizures of illegal wildlife trade, while the shift of wildlife trade to online markets has accelerated.
“The Internet provides wildlife traffickers with access to a vast international marketplace—one without borders, subject to minimal oversight and never closed,” said Ge Gabriel.
“As the trend accelerates it poses an alarming threat to already fragile biological diversity.”
The workshop shared lessons learned and best practices in counter wildlife cybercrime efforts, to help participants identify further action points for tackling wildlife cybercrime and build synergies among organizations from Southeast Asian countries facing similar challenges.
IFAW China Asia shared IFAW’s 18-year experience in finding comprehensive and innovative approaches to challenging the problem wildlife cybercrime.
ENV, FREELAND, TRAFFIC and WCS who have long term experience working on the topic in the Great Mekong Region and Malaysia also participated in sharing their know-how of strengthening laws and regulations, enhancing enforcement and engaging internet platform actions.
Following the event IFAW will develop a road map summarizing recommended future action points, gaps in resources and support needed from international communities.
Picture editors: High resolution professional images available on request.
Notes to editors:
About the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online
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 . At present, the Coalition consists of 44 member companies across the tech sector. Working across technology and conservation sectors, the Coalition is creating consistency in policies and monitoring across the Internet, which provides a largely unregulated space for wildlife traffickers to identify interested buyers and initiate transactions. Since launching in 2018, the Coalition has doubled in size and includes operations across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
About AI Guardian:
On April 22, 2020, IFAW and Baidu launched an artificial intelligence (AI) – powered tool to identify images of endangered wildlife products traded online. Named AI Guardian, 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. Nearly 360,000 images were screened, 6842 effective pictures of relevant wildlife products were identified and 2928 illegal links were traced from 2019 to the present.
Partners Against Wildlife Crime
The Partners Against Wildlife Crime is an EU-funded action implemented through a consortium of 12 international and national partner organizations led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
The project's overall objective is to disrupt illicit supply chains from source to market for tiger, Asian elephant, Siamese rosewood, and freshwater turtles in the Greater Mekong region, Malaysia and China by leveraging civil society partnerships to increase the effectiveness of Government action.
About IFAW (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.
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