Monitoring Wildlife Crime
MIST is a useful tool to monitor where illegal activities are occurring in a Protected Area, the trends in their encounter rates, and whether people have been stopped or arrested. However, it does not allow a Protected Area authority to track offenders through the prosecution process. Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (UWA) legal unit flagged the problems they had in tracking the prosecutions of offenders to WCS in 2013 and we responded by developing an online Wildlife Crime Database with them. Some of the key issues they wanted to deal with were:
- They could not get information at headquarters on the number of people being prosecuted in each park
- They did not know what the average penalties were for successful prosecutions
- They could not assess if someone was a first time offender or not because records were either stored in hard copy or not filed on a shared drive. As a result, most offenders were treated lightly in court as first time offenders
- They could not profile who was getting involved in wildlife crime
- They could not tell if the same person was engaging in illegal activities in different Protected Areas
The Wildlife Crime Database developed by WCS
WCS and UWA worked with JaykSoft to develop an online Wildlife Crime Database that can be accessed on the internet from all Protected Areas in Uganda. It has a hierarchy of access that ensures data is kept confidential and that access is limited at different levels (data entry, protected area manager, headquarters). The database captures information about the offender, the crime he/she was arrested for, and then the prosecution process and result. Simple queries can be made with the data using pre-programmed buttons to summarize the number of arrests, prosecutions,materials seized and to export a summary of ongoing cases and the GPS locations of offenders that have been arrested.
The database was created as an online system because all UWA Protected Areas are now able to access the internet and having an online system means that the Wildlife Crime Database would always be current. For example, any time that an arrest is made the name, details and fingerprints of the person can be searched across the whole database to flag if he/she has previously been arrested and at which site.
The database is currently being trialed in Uganda by UWA and once any bugs have been corrected it will be demonstrated to other countries around the World and hopefully adopted as MIST was.