Even mighty predators need protection from poachers to survive. Those who make it their business to safeguard big cats in the wild rely on big data for help.
According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), there are now fewer than 3,500 wild tigers in their native Asian territory. Habitat destruction, the loss of prey, and the illegal trade in skins and bones contribute to the declining numbers, as they do for various species of leopards and lions.
International coordination needed
In 1996, the EIA launched a campaign to investigate the big cat trade and win support for its cause from governments and other organizations. Since much of the criminal activity crosses national borders, the agency needs the cooperation of transnational agencies and governments to coordinate enforcement and gather information.
Over the years, the EIA found the unstructured data had accumulated to the point of becoming unmanageable. It kept records on all the relevant crimes, but it found pulling out the key connections difficult. "In a trade characterised by repeat offenders, favoured trafficking routes and persistent trading hubs, EIA sought a smarter way to organize the information -- a method to interrogate and explore," Charlotte Davies, an EIA crime analyst, wrote in a blog post.
In 2006, the agency found a solution in an IBM big data system. According to IBM, the system made it possible to bring together "historical intelligence and investigation findings into one fully-searchable, stand-alone database."
For example, according to National Geographic, when the EIA was informed about an attempt to smuggle toxic chemicals, it was able to identify the parties by analyzing the transactions and names and comparing them with those from a decade-old case. "It then used the system to pull together a presentation to graphically demonstrate these links, which was shared with the relevant countries and spurred a follow-up investigation."
Matching names to mugshots
According to IBM, its Analyst's Notebook helped the agency find criminals using multiple names. "Analyst's Notebook's ability to map, smart match, merge and resolve entities helped to streamline associations and present a clearer picture of core involvement, correspondingly facilitating suspect targeting." It can also incorporate videos and photographs into the analysis.
National Geographic reported that a picture and location identification sealed the conviction for tiger poachers in Thailand last year. They poachers claimed the shooting took place in "an unprotected area in Myanmar," but the tiger's stripe pattern matched one recorded by a Wildlife Conservation Society stealth camera in a protected forest in Thailand. Like fingerprints, tiger stripe patterns are individually distinctive, and the poachers' picture was used to prove they had broken the law. One poacher was sentenced to four years in prison, and another was sentenced to five -- "the most severe punishment for wildlife poaching ever given in Thailand."
Re: Trailing the Tiger Trade with Big Data Would be interesting to be able to monitor how that progresses... in terms of global uptake. Certainly the US make a lot of noise around Big Data, and the UK too. But we've seen some of the brightest start ups come out of mainland Europe.
User Rank: Blogger 3/23/2013 | 9:04:32 PM
Re: Trailing the Tiger Trade with Big Data @technetronics @Susan yes, Coursera classes are open to anyone in any part of the world with an internet connection. I know that the MOOC has also been working on expanding courses from universities outside the US and offering them in languages other than English.