The recently launched mobile app WildScan is a new tool that can help in the campaign against the illegal wildlife trade as it provides a means by which endangered species used in the trade can be easily identified and their sale reported.
Among the app’s features is a database that contains photographs and information for more than 280 endangered species and products derived from them.
With the use of these high resolution photos combined with an identification tool, WildScan gives law enforcement officers the ability to quickly identify endangered animals and the products derived from them, facilitating a rapid response.
“Wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia is a serious threat to biodiversity, human well-being, and feeds into transnational organized criminal networks,” said Mr. Do Quang Tung, Chairperson of ASEAN-WEN and Chief of the the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authority of Vietnam.
“This app is a game-changing approach that empowers law enforcers and the public at large across the region to work together and fight back.”
WildScan was launched on September 17 by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and Freeland, a counter-trafficking organization and implementing partner of USAID’s ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking).
The app is available for free download in the Google Play store.
Illegal pet trade
As the illegal pet trade involving endangered animals is part of the larger wildlife trade picture, those who like exotic pets can use WildScan to determine which animals can be legally owned and which are under protection.
WildScan users can input information about the animal in question to identify the species. It also contains information for basic animal care and a reporting function to contact law enforcement.
“Reports from WildScan, including crowd-sourcing information from the public, can help us to understand more about trafficking hotspots, and use that information to focus law enforcement on addressing large criminal syndicates,” said Michael Yates, USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia Director.
The Illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, estimated at $19 billion per year.
In the Philippines, there was a sharp increase in the number of animals confiscated from poachers. During first half of 2014 alone, the government seized 523 animals and some 300 wildlife by-products, according to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) data.