Wildlife Sentinel app aims to combat wildlife smuggling

Non-government organisation TRAFFIC has developed a mobile reporting app, designed to encourage the aviation industry to combat the increasing issue of wildlife trafficking. Frankie Youd speaks to Katrina Mole, project manager at TRAFFIC, to find out about the development.

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International criminal gangs have been exploiting the aviation industry to illegally traffic wildlife products, flora, and fauna. The worldwide illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth at least $19bn annually.

The gangs involved with this criminal activity use the aviation network to smuggle these illegal products by providing false permits, compromising security checks, and bribing corrupt officials.

TRAFFIC, Crime Stoppers, and Reducing Opportunities for unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) have developed a Wildlife Sentinel, a mobile reporting app to provide staff at airports, airlines, and in the aviation environment, with a platform to report suspected wildlife trafficking and corruption.

Speaking on the launch of the app Shane Britten, CEO of Crime Stoppers International (CSI) said: “Wildlife Sentinel is already proving to be a valuable tool in the fight against wildlife crime. By providing aviation sector employees with a simple-to-use, anonymous reporting method, we are giving them the ability to quickly report potential illegal activity and help put an end to this heinous crime.”

Katrina Mole, TRAFFIC project manager, explains how people working in the industry can become involved with the app and what the steps are to report suspicious activity.

Project manager at TRAFFIC, Katrina Mole

Frankie Youd: How did the concept for the app come about?

Katrina Mole: The International Air Transport Association carries out annual surveys of airline members that have signed the Buckingham Palace Declaration [an agreement committing to taking steps to shut down the routes exploited by wildlife traffickers]. For several years, airlines have been calling for a system that allows anonymous reporting of suspected illegal wildlife trade activity.

Part of ROUTES’ mission is to strengthen the communication between transport staff and law enforcement. By teaming up with CSI, which is an expert in guaranteed anonymity, they came up with this technological solution.

Through its anonymity, Wildlife Sentinel also provides the opportunity to reduce corruption in the aviation sector.

How do individuals within the industry become involved with the app?

Wildlife Sentinel went fully operational in September 2021 and is available in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

It is free of charge through the Apple and Android app stores – search term “Wildlife Reporting” and look for the tiger icon to find it. The fact that aviation officials have already installed and are using Wildlife Sentinel has verified the need for this vital tool.

Download the app then click the ‘submit a tip' button to proceed to the first information reporting screen.

The app contains a simple form to share information such as what aroused suspicion, the location, details of the person or persons involved, and flight details. This report is then reviewed by CSI and passed onto the relevant law enforcement authorities.

Could you give an example of how the app may be used?

Corrupt officials could potentially facilitate the exploitation of the aviation industry by wildlife traffickers, for example, by blocking due diligence, providing false permits, and compromising security checks.

Wildlife Sentinel offers the opportunity to report suspicions of wildlife trafficking or corrupt officials without fear of retribution.

All incoming tips go to Crime Stoppers International first. They then review and prioritise the information to report to law enforcement agencies. The intelligence is collated and analysed to build an evidence base to direct long-term strategic responses.

What do both organisations hope to achieve by the launch of this app?

ROUTES and CSI jointly developed Wildlife Sentinel, to empower air transport staff to anonymously report suspicions of wildlife trafficking to law enforcement.

We hope that through the launch of this app, air transport staff will be made aware of this innovative tool. Ultimately, it will contribute to ending wildlife trafficking in air transport.

We hope that the app will be widely used and adopted by the aviation sector to help fight the illegal wildlife trade.