On Earth Day today, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the U.S. National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, will launch the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge to reward innovative science and technology solutions that help combat wildlife trafficking. This global competition will award four prizes of up to $500,000 for innovative science and technology solutions to fight this increasingly serious crime.
“There has been a sharp increase in the illegal wildlife trade in recent years, and there is growing consensus that traditional models of conservation are insufficient to protect biodiversity and preserve ecosystems,” said USAID Vietnam Mission Director Joakim Parker. “By harnessing the power of science and technology, we hope this initiative hopes to overcome key barriers in the fight against wildlife trafficking.” This competition will focus on four issues in the fight against wildlife trafficking: detecting transit routes, strengthening forensic evidence and intelligence, reducing consumer demand, and tackling corruption. Following the selection of winners, the Challenge Team intends to create a community among innovators, users, and the public that will collaborate on further innovation and dissemination of the results. To learn more about the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge and how to submit an application, visit http://wildlifecrimetech.org.
Wildlife trafficking has emerged as one of USAID’s highest priorities, as poaching continues to undermine conservation achievements, economic prospects, and security, and the $10-20 billion annual illegal trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife parts is financing criminal syndicates and terrorist groups. While Vietnam is ranked as the 16th most biodiversity rich country in the world, it is also a major hub for wildlife trafficking, supplying domestic and international markets with a variety of live animals, animal parts and medicinal plants. Vietnam serves as both a major demand country and a key transit hub for rhino horn and elephant ivory, and other endangered species.
USAID has been working closely with Vietnamese government, civil society, and international actors to tackle wildlife trafficking, including through its Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) program, which works to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products, and strengthen law enforcement, regional cooperation, and anti-trafficking networks. USAID is increasing its wildlife trafficking assistance to Vietnam under its Biodiversity Policy, which was launched in July 2014 and identified Vietnam as a priority country for biodiversity programming. The new combating wildlife trafficking activities will work to strengthen the legal framework, increase the capacity for enforcement and implement innovative strategies to reduce the demand for wildlife products.