Eyes in the Digital Wilderness: Web Scrapers in the Battle Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

Eyes in the Digital Wilderness: Web Scrapers in the Battle Against Illegal Wildlife Trade
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In the digital landscape of wildlife crimes, where the illegal trade of protected & endangered wildlife species is flourishing, data scraping tools have emerged as digital sentinals for wildlife law enforcement agencies. These digital sentinels armed with machine learning algorithms and automation have the potential to revolutionize the way wildlife law enforcement officers combat wildlife trafficking. Data Scraping Tools can significantly enhance the efficiency and productivity of Wildlife Enforcement Agencies. To make my point, I would like to have a look at the following:

The above Infographic shows the per minute volume of internet traffic data on various digital platforms in 2021. The volume of internet traffic data must have significantly increased in 2022 and 2023. This digital universe provides a conducive platform for wildlife traffickers to thrive in shadows and secrecy. Extracting the information about the wildlife cyber crimes and criminals from this digital galaxy is a formidable challenge for law enforcement agencies. Data Scraping Tools can become the eyes of the enforcement agencies in this digital wilderness in their fight against the wildlife trafficking.

A data scraping tool, also known as a web scraper is a software application. It enables its users to extract specific data or content from webpages in a structured format. This make it easier for enforcement officials to analyze and understand the data from their perspective. Scrapy, ParseHub, Crawly, WebHarvy, Content Grabber etc. are some examples of web scraping tools.

Law Enforcement Agencies can harness the Web Scraping Tools to combat wildlife crimes in following ways:

  • Web Scraping Tools empower the enforcement officials for precision extraction of specific data related to the wildlife crimes on digital platforms  such as wildlife contrabands being illegally traded, their quoted price, the vendors, their addresses, their contact details, different code names used for the same wildlife contraband, payment methods etc. These specific data can help in focused & effective investigation and dismantling of complex wildlife trafficking networks. Following is the eaxample of scraping of specific data about illegal trade of Red Sanders (protected under Appendix-II of CITES) from a B2B e-Commerce site IndiaMART using a web scraping tool called ParseHub. Using this tool, all details regarding red sanders trade on this site such as descriptions, price/kg., suppliers, places of supply, suppliers' mobile numbers can be extracted in a structured format in CSV/Excel, JSON, API files by following a few steps only. You may watch various tutorial videos available on internet on how to use this tool or other data scraping tools to extract specific data from a website or multiple sites using a single or multiple code words for data extraction.
  • Web Scraping Tools help law enforcement in real time monitoring and intelligence gathering from identified online marketplaces, social media platforms, online forums, web pages etc. regarding illegal wildlife trade. This helps wildlife enforcement officials in taking prompt action against the perpetrators. For example, once wildlife enforcement officer creates a Project for data extraction about single or multiple wildlife contrabands from a digital platform on ParseHub tool, he can extract real time data on subsequent days also just by clicking on the downward arrow sign against the Project name as shown below:
  • Through analysis of such structured real time data related to wildlife crmes, enforcement officials may continuosly monitor the trends, patterns, potential leads & modus operandi adopted by the traffickers. This enables them to adapt their strategies and allocate their human & technical resources accordingly to counter this crime effectively.
  • Data Scraping Tools can collect relevant data for wildlife enforcement agencies in a fraction of time it would take manually by automating the process of data extraction. By using such tools, wildlife enforcement officials do not have to visit same website for same contrabands to collect data manually time and again. This saves crucial time and resources of enforcement agencies and enhances their efficiency and productivity.

To conclude, data scraping tools may be used as force-multipliers by wildlife law enforcement agencies to enhance their capabilties to combat wildlife crimes more effectively. Well equipped with these tools, enforcement officials can gather, process and analyze large amount of data related to wildlife crimes in a quick & precise manner. This enables them to take targeted and decisive action against illegal wildlife trade networks.

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