Aquarium Trade Data Project Wins Grand Prize
02 Sep, 2016
USAID Annouces Grand Prize Winners of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge
WASHINGTON, D.C., Thursday, September 1, 2016 – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) today announced the four Grand Prize winners of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge. With a combined award of more than $900,000, these Grand Prize winners’ groundbreaking innovations will impact illegal trafficking in marine and terrestrial wildlife and are a testament to the power of science and technology to combat wildlife crime.
The USAID-led Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge issued a worldwide call for innovative solutions to combat wildlife trafficking on Earth Day 2015, and more than 300 innovators from around the world responded. The four Grand Prize winners presented the most creative and impactful science and technology solutions to fight wildlife crime, one of the biggest conservation challenges facing the world today.
“In addition to threatening some of the world’s most treasured species, wildlife crime poses serious risks to people, economies, and global security,” said USAID Administrator Gayle Smith. “That’s why USAID is proud to support the four Grand Prize Winners of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge. By harnessing the power of science and technology to root out poaching and trafficking, these remarkable innovators will ultimately help make the world a safer and more prosperous place for all of us.”
Chosen for their science and technological innovations that fight wildlife crime around the world, these winning innovators include:
- National Whistleblower Center is designing a secure, transnational reporting system designed to fight corruption by incentivizing insiders to securely report wildlife crime.
- New England Aquarium is leveraging “smart invoice” technology to help port inspectors find illegal wildlife and wildlife products hidden in plain sight.
- New York University has developed a secure, web-based interface that leverages the power of machine learning to identify the online sale of illegal wildlife products.
- University of Washington is developing a genetic analysis tool that will reveal poaching hotspots for pangolins, some of the most trafficked mammals in the world.
Wildlife trafficking has emerged as one of USAID’s highest priorities, undermining conservation achievements, economic prospects, and security. USAID works directly with wildlife rangers, airline employees, customs agents, and others to address the illegal wildlife trade. The Agency has tripled its support to address this crisis, with more than $67 million being invested in FY 2015 in the first line of defense against poachers and traffickers, bolstering community conservation, reducing demand for wildlife products, and developing innovative solutions. Through the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, USAID is playing a key role in implementing the President’s strategy by supporting the development of innovative technologies to aid enforcement efforts.
Initiated by a 2013 Executive Order, the U.S. National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking prioritizes strengthening domestic and global law enforcement, reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife, and expanding coordination and commitment. Through the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, led by USAID in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, USAID leads U.S. Government efforts to develop innovative approaches to combat wildlife trafficking.
Two Grand Prize Winners and four Prize Winners will be featured in numerous events during the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) World Conservation Congress from September 1-5 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Reporters interested in attending or learning more should contact Mara Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the conversation on Twitter at #wildlifetech and #IUCNcongress. To learn more about the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge Grand Prize Winners, please visit www.wildlifecrimetech.org.
Editor’s Note – You may have recently noticed citations to the website AquariumTradeData.org in CORAL Magazine articles and online posts. This website, a project spearheaded by Dr. Andrew Rhyne (New England Aquarium, Roger Williams University) and Dr. Michael Tlusty (New England Aquarium, University of Massachusetts Boston), represents an outgrowth of the underlying innovation that has been awarded by USAID.
The work that went into the cataloging of this data, and making it publicly available, brings a level of understanding, fact, and transparency to discussions of the aquarium trade and harvest that has never before existed. While it doesn’t capture the entirety of the global aquarium trade, a tremendous resource has been created, and we will continue to make use of it whenever appropriate.
We are delighted to congratulate all parties involved on this tremendous recognition by USAID; we are grateful for this important new resource and the work behind it. While this work has spawned resources like the AquariumTradeData.org website, as Dr. Rhyne discusses in an interview with USAID, this is truly just the beginning.
About the author
Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC is the publisher of award-winning magazines and books in the fields of aquarium keeping, aquatics, and marine science. It is the English-language publisher of CORAL Magazine and is based in Shelburne, Vermont, USA.