Sunday, 18 September 2016

These New Inventions Could Help Stop Wildlife Smuggling

They include a whistleblower system to report wildlife crime and a DNA test to pinpoint poaching hot spots of the world’s most trafficked mammal.


HONOLULU, HAWAIIEvery year about 10 million aquarium fish pass through United States ports, many on their way to new homes as family pets. But first, federal inspectors must leaf through mountains of paperwork on the animals, which are shipped from more than 40 countries around the world.

“Until recently, the [inspectors] didn’t even have wireless access in the warehouses,” says Michael Tlusty, director of ocean sustainability and science at the New England Aquarium.

That’s why it can be easy to miss illegal wildlife trade—for instance, an endangered fish swimming about with other species that’s not declared on a shipment invoice. “Lots of wildlife gets hidden in plain sight,” according to Tlusty. “How do you know what’s in the box?”

Enter the aquarium’s new tablet-based platform that allows people to digitize and quickly track wildlife trade invoices, and then scan for discrepancies or red flags that point to illegal activity. “We want to develop this as a real-time solution,” Tlusty says. Inspectors “can go into the warehouse and use this tablet to decide if they should or should not inspect a shipment.”

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