USAID, Born Free USA, and Freeland Launch WildScan App to Counter Wildlife Trafficking in West Africa
The WildScan app empowers law enforcement to stop illegal wildlife trade, rescue animals, and apprehend traffickers
WASHINGTON, Oct. 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Born Free USA, a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, has launched WildScan, a user-friendly mobile phone application developed to aid law enforcement in West Africa in their work to combat illegal wildlife trade. The app was created in partnership with Freeland with funding from the United States Agency for International Development's West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change Program (USAID/WA BiCC).
Designed as a tool for customs and border patrol officers, WildScan aids in the identification of wildlife species and wildlife parts and products being trafficked across borders. The app comes with a comprehensive photo library and database of vital information on more than 500 protected species, providing users with tips on how to identify the animals they encounter. WildScan also details local animal protection laws and includes a reporting option that allows the user to document a suspected wildlife crime with the push of one button. This reporting transmits information to relevant enforcement agencies and contributes to broader information sharing on wildlife crime in the region.
Victor Mombu, Environmental Policy Specialist for USAID West Africa, notes that the app is a "valuable tool to combat wildlife trafficking in the region and increases the capacity of enforcement officers on the frontlines to better confront this illegal activity." Alice Stroud, Africa Policy and Capacity Building Director for Born Free USA, says that the app has already been leveraged to counter illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia and, with the work put into the West Africa app, she is confident in its success as well.
"Born Free USA launched this app in English, French, and Portuguese to ensure it is accessible in all of the region's major languages," says Stroud. "We also developed local species lists with photos to ensure West African species were represented in the database, which will aid the border and customs officers in identifying and stopping illegal wildlife trafficking."
The WildScan app is Born Free USA's latest initiative to aid wildlife law enforcement in West and Central Africa. Born Free USA has partnered for many years with regional governments to provide trainings and educational resources for law enforcement officials, including printable species identification guides, in-person and digital training workshops, and posters and other public awareness materials.
"Wildlife trafficking in Central and West Africa is driving species decline in the region," says Angela Grimes, Born Free USA CEO. "The WildScan app is an important new tool that will provide local law enforcement vital information and support to help curb this deadly trade."
The global trade in wild animals is a multi-billion-dollar industry that causes extreme animal cruelty and serious population declines. Due in large part to the wildlife trade, species like elephants, rhinos, lions, pangolins, and countless reptiles, amphibians, and fish face an uncertain future.
Wildlife crime also endangers human communities, as the trade increasingly involves organized crime groups, criminal syndicates, violent gangs, and armed militias, which see wildlife as a low risk/high value commodity. In terms of profitability, the European Commission reports that wildlife trafficking ranks third globally among criminal enterprises (behind the narcotics and illegal arms trades).
"Born Free USA's work in West and Central Africa is focused on developing practical resources that make the job of law enforcement easier and safer," Grimes adds. "Border guards, customs officers, and other law enforcement officials are the heroes on the front-line of the fight to protect wildlife. We are proud to have developed the WildScan app for the region—another tool in the arsenal to stop wildlife trafficking."
- Learn more about the WildScan app at bornfreeusa.org/wildscan
- Learn more about Born Free USA's work to counter illegal wildlife trade in West and Central Africa at bornfreeusa.org/wildlifetrade
About Born Free USA
Born Free USA works to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. We oppose the exploitation of wild animals in captivity and campaign to keep them where they belong—in the wild. Born Free USA's Primate Sanctuary is the largest in the United States and provides a permanent home for more than 450 primates rehomed from laboratories or rescued from zoos and private ownership. We're social: www.bornfreeusa.org, www.twitter.com/bornfreeusa, www.facebook.com/bornfreeusa, www.instagram.com/bornfreeusaorg.