Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge

Photo Credit: USAID
The Challenge Blog

The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge makes a splash at SXSW!

On March 11, the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge headed to South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive, an annual technology conference in Austin, TX. While at SXSW, the Challenge presented a panel showcasing science and technology innovations that can help combat wildlife trafficking, connected with other inspirational innovators, and spread the word about the global wildlife trafficking crisis. Want to know more about the panel? Read on, and check out the #wildXSW Storify for more!

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On March 13, two of the Challenge’s 16 Prize Winners, Paso Pacifico and Binomial Solutions, joined Challenge judge Crawford Allan of TRAFFIC and wildlife expert Catherine Workman of National Geographic on-stage at SXSW to discuss wildlife crime and technological innovation. In the audience was Alasdair Davies, who represented Challenge Prize Winner Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and took the stage at SXSW the previous day. Workman and Allan explained the complexities of the illegal wildlife trade for the audience. Wildlife trafficking is acknowledged by many, including President Obama, as a global crisis—an illegal trade worth at least $19 billion per year—but Allan, who has 25 years of experience in this field offered an uplifting message. “Because of efforts like the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, I’ve never been more hopeful than I am today,” he said, adding, “If we join together, wildlife crime is a problem that we will solve in our lifetime.”

Eduardo Boné-Morón of Paso Pacifico and Ravikant Singh of Binomial Solutions took the stage to demo inspiring examples of the innovations that bolster this hope. Paso Pacifico is developing artificial sea turtle eggs equipped with hidden GPS trackers that reveal the trade routes used by traffickers of these eggs. Boné-Morón handed around prototype eggs and even surprising three unsuspecting “poachers” in the audience, each of whom found alarmed and trackable eggs near their seats. Alarms, though great for startling an audience, aren’t really how Paso Pacifico’s fake eggs will be recovered: Boné-Morón further delighted the audience by showing a map that revealed other eggs equipped with trackers hidden throughout Austin. 

Artificial sea turtle eggs would be a hard act for almost anyone to follow, but not Singh, who wowed the audience with a demo of Binomial Solution’s e-Eye, an innovative solar-powered wildlife surveillance system that uses intelligent software to flag suspicious activity in protected areas, and to alert authorities. Singh shared video footage of rhinos and tigers captured by e-Eye®, which operates in a number of wildlife protected areas in India. Best of all, the SXSW audience was treated to a live and exclusive look through e-Eye®’s thermal vision camera at Nilgai antelope, also known as blue bulls, 8500 miles away in India, a view usually available only to Indian authorities.

Binomial Solutions, Paso Pacifico, ZSL and the other 13 Challenge Prize Winners are seeking help in scaling or accelerating their innovations. The panel closed with a discussion of what both innovators need to achieve these goals. As might be expected, the SXSW audience was full of ideas, inspiration, and enthusiasm. We hope you are too – please get in touch at info@wildlifecrimetech.org if you can help!



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