A lizard in your luggage? We use artificial intelligence to detect wildlife trafficking

A lizard in your luggage?  We use artificial intelligence to detect wildlife trafficking

A scanned image of a lizard (Varanus varius) produced using a new technology. Credit: Rapiscan Systems, author provided

Among the local animals are blue-tongued lizards and sulfur-crowned parrots It is often smuggled overseas.

While the number of live animals confiscated by the Australian government has Tripled since 2017The full scale of the problem eludes us because authorities often do not know where and how wildlife is trafficked. Now, we can add new technology to Australia’s arsenal against this cruel and inhumane industry.

We searched the post in Frontiers in conservation science Today, it shows the potential of new technology to detect illegal wildlife in baggage or mail. This technology uses artificial intelligence to recognize the shapes of animals when scanned at international front lines such as airports and postal centers.

Exotic species are also smuggled inside Country, such as snakes, turtles and fish. This could disrupt Australia’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industries by introducing pests and diseases, and could also threaten fragile local ecosystems.

animal welfare problem

Wildlife trafficking is driven by several factors, including alleged medical purposesanimals of ornamental value or for Illegal pet trade.

It can have serious consequences, as it usually involves moving individual animals in cramped or cramped environments. This often results in animals being stressed, dehydrated, and dying.

Some people even tried to use it Chip Packs to smuggle Australian wildlife.

Traffickers often transport multiple people All at once, hoping that some animal will make him alive.

We don’t know the full picture of trafficked animals, how they are trafficked or even when they occur. But examples from seized cases in Australia indicate that smugglers value Australian reptiles and birds.

A lizard in your luggage?  We use artificial intelligence to detect wildlife trafficking

Shengback lizards are one of the most trafficked animals in Australia. credit: shutterstock

for example, Shingleback lizardsa species of blue-tongued lizard, is one of the most trafficked species in Australia.

Aside from being cruel and inhumane, wildlife trafficking can also facilitate the introduction of alien species in new environments.

This brings significant risks to biosecurity. For example, zoonoses (diseases transmitted from a non-human animal to a human) involve people coming into contact with stressed wild animals. Exotic species can also disrupt natural ecosystems, as we have famously seen with the damage caused by cane frogs in northern Australia.

Unregulated wildlife entering the country may also contain new diseases or devastating parasites. This could harm the agricultural industries and potentially raise the prices of our fruits and vegetables.

Create a Traffic Photo Library

Our new research documents a variety of wildlife species, which have been scanned using the latest technology to help build computer algorithms with “real-time tomography.”

Real-time tomography is an imaging technique that uses a series of X-rays to scan an object (such as a lizard). It then produces a 3D image of the animal which in turn is used to develop the algorithms. For example, mail and baggage can be checked at the airport, and if wildlife is closed, algorithms will alert operators of their presence.

Our study surveyed known species of trafficked Australian animals to create an image reference library. A total of 294 scans from 13 species of lizards, birds, and fish were used to develop the initial wildlife algorithms, with a detection rate of 82%, and a false alarm rate of just 1.6%.

This research is the first of its kind to document the use of 3D X-ray security scanning technology to protect wildlife within the peer-reviewed scientific literature. It is also the first to report results for the detection of reptiles, birds and fish in such examinations.

The detection tool is designed to complement the current detection procedures of the Australian Border Force, Biosecurity Officers and Detection dogswhich remain crucial in our fight against wildlife crime.

A lizard in your luggage?  We use artificial intelligence to detect wildlife trafficking

A wildlife algorithm has successfully detected a shingleback lizard. This is a screenshot of the user interface alerting the operator of a detected shingleback lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) through the surrounding green square that shot this lizard. Credit: Pirotta et al. 2022

Otherwise, how do we stop the wildlife trade?

The tools that currently help detect and restrict wildlife trafficking rely primarily on human detection methods.

This includes Cyber ​​crime investigations Or Australian Border Force and Biosecurity officers manually searching bags. dogs biosecurity detector Airport patrols are also useful, as are smartphone reporting apps like Wildlife Witness App.

Also critical are efforts to dismantle illicit trade networks at source. This is by understanding and minimizing Consumer demand for wildlife and wild animals products, provide alternative livelihoods for potential fishermen, and enforce stronger governance and control.

Seized animals can be used as evidence to identify human traffickers, as previous cases have led to successful prosecutions by environmental investigators. For example, he was a former rugby league player Four years in prison After he was caught trying to smuggle a variety of animals into and out of Australia.

Continuing the fight

All these measures help in the fight wildlife smugglingbut there is no single solution to predict when and where events are most likely to occur.

Wildlife traffickers may frequently adapt their behavior to avoid detection. As a result, innovative and adaptive solutions, such as our new technology, are vital to support current detection technologies.

Any effort to eradicate this horrific activity is a step in the right direction, and the possibility of 3D detection enables us to adapt and evolve with the way traffickers may change their behaviours.


Using 3D X-ray technology to detect illegal wildlife trade


more information:
Vanessa Perrotta et al., Detecting illegal wildlife trafficking by real-time tomography, 3D X-ray imaging and automated algorithms, Frontiers in conservation science (2022). DOI: 10.3389 / fcosc.2022.757950

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