Cyber monitoring to curb illegal wildlife trade on virtual markets: Wildlife officials learn new skills
Ramnagar, Uttarakhand: On 26-27 December 2018, TRAFFIC India in partnership with WWF-India, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Police Radio Training School (PRTS), Indore, organised a first of its kind training to build capacity of the forest officials of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh for dealing with wildlife related cybercrime. The two-day workshop was attended by 39 officials from the two tiger-bearing states of India and was held at Laldhang, Jhirna range, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand.
Illegal wildlife trade is one of the most significant threats to wildlife and has now grown to spread its wings across cyberspace. This has been a major concern and also a gap in wildlife law enforcement in the country considering that the internet users are increasing every day resulting in a growing expanse of a network of poachers, traders, and consumers on this platform. The phenomenon of monitoring wildlife cybercrime has been fairly naïve in India with agencies employing traditional monitoring protocols. The demand for wildlife commodities on such growing platforms has further led to a surge in poaching and illegal wildlife trade. Therefore, it becomes imperative to understand and devise effective methods to monitor virtual markets to check illegal wildlife trade.
The training workshop in Corbett was conducted by specialist and experts in the field of monitoring cybercrime through important sessions on intelligence, investigation, and search and seizure techniques; communication device investigation; social media investigation; cybercrime scene management; digital intelligence collection; wildlife forensics; telecom surveillance and CDR analysis and IPDR – (CDR of IP address) analysis.
The training team was led by Dr Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC India and Mr Varun Kapoor, Additional Director General, Madhya Pradesh Police and included Mr Sudeep Goenka, Superintendent of Police, Cyber Cell, Bhopal; Mr Malay Mahant, Incharge Training: PRTS Indore; and Mr Afzal Khan, Incharge Technical Cell, PRTS Indore.
The workshop was the first in the series being organized by TRAFFIC India in collaboration with WWF-India, NTCA and PRTS under a new flagship programme called ‘Cyber CLAW’. Similar training programmes will be organized for the forest officials of other Tiger Reserves namely Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve and Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, Kaziranga Tiger Reserve in Assam, Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan and Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha.
After completing the two-day training programme, about five candidates from each Tiger Reserves will be selected based on their competency in cyber monitoring for next phase of programme which will include five-day comprehensive hands-on training to combat wildlife cybercrime. During this course, participants will get an in-depth training on various modern tools and techniques available including website & email investigation, OSINT (Open Source Intelligence Collection), financial trail analysis and darknet investigation for curbing wildlife cybercrime.
Dr Saket Badola said, “Cyberspace is fast emerging as a major platform for trading in illegal wildlife parts and derivatives. With an estimated 281 million internet users in India, various platforms of social media have turned into virtual markets where illegal wildlife trade is being carried out. Commonly traded protected wildlife species on virtual space in India include Red Sand Boa; pangolin; turtles and tortoises; Tokay Geckos; parakeets and owls; corals and shells; timber species; cobra venom; monitor lizards’ parts and derivatives among other wildlife. It is important to regularly monitor these markets and take necessary enforcement actions to stop this”.
Mr Varun Kapoor said, “With consumers moving on to using internet and virtual markets for their day to day requirements, cybercrime too has unfolded. Reports indicate that there is almost one cybercrime in every 10 minutes in India. Wildlife cybercrime is burgeoning and if left unaddressed can have devastating impact on India’s wildlife. It is our mission to provide adequate knowledge and skills to the officials of these workshop on dealing with various aspects of wildlife cybercrime”.
Mr Rahul, Director of Corbett Tiger Reserve spoke to the participants about various modern tools including drones and GPS being used in patrolling to protect wildlife. He highlighted that wildlife cybercrime has emerged as a huge challenge for wildlife law enforcers today as poachers and wildlife traders are using modern communication mediums such as telecommunication and cyber space as mediums for promoting their illegal business.
Mr Surender Mehra, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife administration, protection and intelligence) Uttarakhand also emphasized on an urgent need to equip forest department with modern tools and techniques to combat wildlife cybercrime in the state. He highlighted that the initiative taken by TRAFFIC along with other partners will provide adequate knowledge and skills that can be used by a forester to combat wildlife cybercrime in the state.
For any queries, please contact Dr Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC’s India office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at +91 9720007663 or you can contact Dilpreet B. Chhabra, Senior Manager-Communications, TRAFFIC’s India office at email@example.com or call her at 09899000472.
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is a leading non-governmental organisation working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. TRAFFIC works closely with its founding organisations, IUCN and WWF. TRAFFIC in India operates as a programme division of WWF–India, the largest conservation organisation in India. More: www.traffic.org; www.trafficindia.org