Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge

Photo Credit: USAID
The Challenge Blog

The New England Aquarium is tackling wildlife trafficking at ports

Grand Prize Winner the New England Aquarium is fighting wildlife crime

Welcome to an installment of our Spotlight series, highlighting each of our 16 Prize Winners working to combat wildlife crime around the globe. Find out about all 16 Prize Winners here, and check back in on Mondays for a new Spotlight post.

Illegally trafficked wildlife and wildlife products are often hidden in plain sight, smuggled into ports of entry disguised as legally documented cargo. For inspectors at these ports, screening shipment information to find illegal wildlife and wildlife parts is no easy task. “It’s all on paper,” explains New England Aquarium and Roger Williams University’s Andrew Rhyne. Wildlife inspectors must manually sift through paper invoices to determine whether shipments are legal or not, and whether animal species and countries of origin have been correctly identified. It is a difficult and resource-intensive job, and illicit wildlife products easily can slip through the system. 

To tackle this issue, Grand Prize Winner the New England Aquarium working with Roger Williams University has developed a tool, Automated Shipment Forensics, that digitizes much of this process. The tool converts paper shipping documents into a digital format, conducts real-time forensic analyses on the information captured, and estimates the likelihood that a particular shipment may contain illegal product. “We’re able to give wildlife inspectors a tool to look at shipments and determine what’s in them at a much faster rate,” explains Rhyne. 

Automated Shipment Forensics, a “smart invoice technology”, was selected as one of the Challenge’s Grand Prize Winners for its transformative potential to fill a systems gap and analyze shipments at the “species per box” level or in real-time. The ultimate goal of the New England Aquarium / Roger Williams University partnership is to get the tool into the hands of government wildlife inspectors in the field so that they can be more effective at stopping wildlife crime.

Find out about each of Challenge’s 16 talented Prize Winners and their game-changing innovations to fight wildlife crime here. All of our Prize Winners, including the New England Aquarium, are looking for partners, organizations, individuals, and funding agencies that can help them scale their solutions. If you would like more information, get in touch at info@wildlifecrimetech.org.

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