[Video] Combatting wildlife crime with technology

  • The Hostile Activity Watch Kernel (HAWK) has become a mandatory tool for documenting wildlife crimes in Kerala.
  • In the old manual system, the forest department officials did not have access to crime records of even the neighbouring division.
  • Experts say that HAWK can help earmark areas prone to wildlife crime, monitor suspicious people and identify areas that need more patrolling.

In 2015, under Operation Shikar, the Kerala Forest Department solved one of the most sensational ivory poaching cases in India. The case highlighted an important issue in the process of solving wildlife crimes — tracking the data.

In its bid to tackle wildlife trafficking and to access and monitor the wildlife crime data with ease, the Kerala Forest Department has launched Hostile Activities Watch Kernel (HAWK), a software developed by Leopard Tech Labs based in Kerala. The app developed by the technology lab has helped the state forest department transition from a manual to a digital documenting process.

Speaking to Mongabay-India, Manu Sathyan of the Kerala Forest Department explains, “The forest department has a good intelligence network, but it is more personal than institutionalised. When officials are transferred, whatever work they have done, the data, everything is gone. The new person has to redo it and does not have the data. So, now we are trying to institutionalise the intelligence network.”

Apart from cutting down on large amounts of paperwork, HAWK also boasts a robust system that ensures transparency across the hierarchy. HAWK became a mandatory tool for documenting wildlife crimes in Kerala from August 2020. In a single click, forest officials can now track the data of a crime, list of offenders and even animal deaths.

Read more: [Explainer] Why is India a major hub for wildlife trafficking?

Wildlife and technology experts are confident that in the long run, this tool can help earmark areas prone to wildlife crime, monitor suspicious people, identify areas that need more patrolling and make logical and informed decisions about wildlife protection.


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Editor’s Note: Operation Shikar was carried out by the Kerala Forest Department and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau with the support of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The video erroneously mentions Wildlife Institute of India.  

Banner image: Photo of seized ivory by Kerala Forest Department under Operation Shikar. Photo by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)

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