Technology like GPS tracking was introduced as a way to protect endangered species and help them recover, but it seems like poachers and illegal wildlife traders might be taking advantage of the growing use of technology in conservation efforts.
The Panna Tiger Reserve in India was notified that someone tried to hack into an email account that contains the geographic location of an endangered Bengal tiger, according to an article published in National Geographic.
The attempt was prevented by the website server, but even if the hacker had managed to get access, the geographic data — that is broadcast from the tiger's collar — is encrypted and only a sophisticated software can decode it.
The motive and identity of the hacker is unknown, and the Panna Tiger Reserve and police have launched an investigation. Even though the attempt was unsuccessful, it has made many wildlife conservationists wary and shown that this kind of "cyberpoaching" could pose a serious threat to endangered animals.
Poachers and traders are becoming more and more tech-savvy — evidence of cellphone and email use is appearing in more and more wildlife criminal cases, according to the National Geographic article.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora have found that poachers and wildlife traders are relying more and more on the Internet.
TRAFFIC has also reported an increasing use of technology in the way poachers go after their targets, including more sophisticated weapons and the use of veterinary drugs to kill animals.
GPS tracking has successfully been used to monitor and help endangered species, but it looks like conservationists need to take extra precaution now that that same geographical data could help lead poachers to an animal's exact location.
The Bengal tiger at the Panna Tiger Reserve is still alive and well, but the organization intends to step up security by adding surveillance drones to detect any intruders.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the illegal wildlife sale industry cashes in somewhere between $7.8 to $10 billion every year. Moving illegal wildlife trade online comes with several benefits for poachers and traders: they can be anonymous, expand their customer base to include people around the world, and transactions are much faster.
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