Illegal wildlife trafficking is becoming a big problem in countries like Afghanistan and China, and some U.S. soldiers stationed overseas are now being called upon to help fight this. To make this task easier for these soldiers and other law enforcement agents, an app has been developed by a social scientist named Heidi Krester.
The app is not designed to turn soldiers or officers into taxonomists. Rather, it provides information to help them decide whether an expert should be called for further investigation.
There are two versions of the app. The one used in Afghanistan is called Wildlife Alert, and the one used in China is called Wildlife Guardian. They both serve the same basic purpose. The main difference between the two versions is what they identify.
Wildlife Alert helps users determine if certain merchandise comes from an illegal animal. Users can identify if a horn or a pelt of fur may have come from illegal activities, even if they cannot decide the specific species.
The app used in China is made to identify the entire animal, not the parts that come in for trade. It covers 457 species, while the Afghan app only covers 75. There have already been 1,000 downloads for the Chinese app, and it is expected to grow quickly as more people start to use the app successfully.
These applications may not put a stop to illegal wildlife trafficking, but they will help law enforcement officers to curtail this growing problem.