From Forests to Cyberspace: a Holistic Approach to Wildlife Protection

Enter into an insightful discussion merging nature and digital topics with WildHub expert Arvind Kumar Chaurasia. Experience a thought-provoking interview facilitated by Ussi Abuu, a WildHub Key Conservation Catalyst, delving into the profound impact of technology on conservation efforts in India.
From Forests to Cyberspace: a Holistic Approach to Wildlife Protection
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Arvind Kumar: Leading Conservation Efforts in the Digital Age 

Meet Arvind Kumar, a distinguished member of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) in India, who shares insights into the bureau's endeavours in combatting wildlife crime and trafficking. From international collaborations to innovative initiatives, he shows how multifaceted efforts can protect our planet's biodiversity. Arvind’s story can help us understand how technology, collaboration, and advocacy aid in fighting crimes against wildlife. 

Innovation, Collaboration, Conservation: Arvind Kumar's Vision for a Safe Planet
Innovation, Collaboration, Conservation: Arvind Kumar's Vision for a Safe Planet.
Photo by Unsplash 

I recently had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Arvind Kumar Chaurasia about his impactful work. Here's what we discussed:

Ussi: How does your organization combat wildlife crime and trafficking? What are your primary goals and strategies?   

Arvind Kumar: Currently I am serving in Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB). This is the Federal Wildlife Law Enforcement Agency of India. Its primary goals & strategies include:

  • Collection and collation of intelligence related to organized wildlife crimes, disseminating the same to State and other Enforcement Agencies, conducting investigations of wildlife crime cases, and prosecuting the wildlife criminals.
  • WCCB has also established a Centralized Wildlife Crime Data Bank. All States’ Forest/Wildlife & Police Authorities are required to fill the data of wildlife crimes booked and investigated by them into this data bank. This centralized data bank is of immense help in analysing the trends and patterns of wildlife crimes and devising the multi-pronged strategy to combat wildlife crimes.
  • Conducting capacity building training programmes for officials of various law enforcement agencies including Customs, Police, and Wildlife/Forest authorities for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes. WCCB also conducts Sensitization Programmes for official of border guarding agencies regarding trends in wildlife crimes, modus operandi, and identification of wildlife contrabands in illegal trade etc.
  • WCCB plays pivotal role in implementation of obligations under the various international Conventions such as Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). WCCB is CITES Enforcement Focal Point for India. Regional Deputy Directors of WCCB are also designated as Assistant Management Authority of CITES and they issue CITES Permits for import-export of CITES listed species.
  • Providing assistance to concerned authorities in foreign countries and concerned international organisations to facilitate co-ordination and universal action for wildlife crime control.
  • Conducting Internship Programme for students to familiarize them with the phenomenon of wildlife crimes.
  • WCCB has also its Volunteer Scheme. These Volunteers serve as extended eyes and ears of WCCB in its endeavour to combat wildlife crimes.
  • Besides WCCB, a Partner Government Agency (PGA) also assists Customs Authorities in detection and prevention of cross border smuggling of protected flora & fauna species.

Ussi: Could you share some examples of successful operations or initiatives your organization has undertaken to combat wildlife crime? What were the outcomes?

Arvind Kumar: I would like to share one of the initiatives taken by WCCB to combat illegal wildlife trade taking place on Digital Landscape i.e. social media, instant messaging apps, e-commerce sites, darknet and other online fora. To combat wildlife cybercrimes WCCB has conducted a series of WildNet Operations in 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021 & 2022. These Operations have been immensely successful in combating wildlife cybercrimes which is evident from the fact that WCCB has been awarded UNEP Asia Environmental Enforcement Award twice in 2018 & 2020 for conducting highly impactful WildNet Operations. Adopting a holistic approach WCCB has also conducted meetings with several digital platforms (in 2016, 2017 & 2019) for their cooperation and collaboration in its fight to dismantle the illegal wildlife trade taking place on cyberspace. WCCB has collaborated with certain digital platforms for raising awareness amongst their users regarding wildlife cybercrimes for demand reduction as illegal wildlife trade is a demand-driven crime.  

Ussi: Wildlife crime is a complex issue that often spans across borders. How does international collaboration play a role in your efforts to combat such crimes?    

Arvind Kumar: Yes, you are absolutely right in saying it's a complex issue. Wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest transnational organized crime. It generates $7-23 Billion annually. Its supply chain spreads across the borders. Without bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation and coordination this trafficking can’t be tackled effectively and decisively. WCCB is one of the founding member of South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) which is a Regional Body of South Asian Countries to combat transnational wildlife trafficking. Apart from SAWEN, WCCB collaborate with INTERPOL, UNODC, UNEP, CITES Secretariat, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) etc. in its efforts to counter cross border wildlife crimes.

Joining Forces, Saving Wildlife: WCCB leads regional  cooperation through SAWEN and collaborates with global partners like INTERPOL, UNODC, UNEP, and more to combat cross-border wildlife trafficking.

Global Collaboration, Wildlife Preservation: Innovating, Uniting, and Protecting Our Planet
Global Collaboration, Wildlife Preservation: Innovating, Uniting, and Protecting Our Planet.

Photo by Unsplash.

Ussi: In light of your professional experience, could you please share the top five lessons you've learned that you believe would be valuable to new conservationists and others? 

Arvind Kumar: Based on my professional experience I would like to share the following 5 lessons with you all:

  • Wildlife crime is not an isolated crime. It converges with many other crimes such as drugs trafficking, arms trafficking, human smuggling, cybercrimes and money laundering just to mention a few. It is also a serious threat for national and international security as proceeds of wildlife trafficking are also a source of funding for many terrorists, militants and insurgents groups. It highlights the need for synergy among various enforcement agencies to combat this convergence.
  • Following the money trail/financial investigation should be an integral part of investigation of wildlife crimes. It helps in tracking the wider criminal networks. Confiscating the proceeds of crime generated from wildlife trafficking can prove an effective deterrent against this crime.

Never quote the monetary value of seized wildlife as it is counter-productive and it further incentivizes the wildlife crimes.

  • Harness emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Big Data Analytics, Generative AI, Large Language Models etc. for wildlife law enforcement.
  • Securing conviction of the wildlife traffickers serves as real deterrent. For this, scientific investigation using wildlife forensics, digital forensics, OSINT etc. must be carried out to prove the case beyond any reasonable doubt during the trial of the accused in the court of law. Besides, extend cooperation in investigation of transnational wildlife crimes as and when approached by the officials of wildlife law enforcement agency of investigating country.

Ussi: Is there anything else you would like to share with our WildHub members?

Arvind Kumar:

Let us unite and protect our precious wildlife by becoming the voice for these voiceless creatures. Together, we can make a lasting impact in preserving the diversity of our planet and ensuring a sustainable future for all. Your commitment and advocacy are crucial in the global effort to combat wildlife crimes and safeguard the natural world.

Conclusion

In concluding this interview, we've delved into a wealth of expertise and operational strategies employed by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) in combating wildlife crime. The discussion underscores the crucial role of international collaboration, the integration of technological solutions, and the need for a multifaceted approach in preserving our planet's biodiversity.

The shared experiences and lessons, ranging from the convergence of wildlife crime with broader illicit activities to the imperative of financial investigation, serve as invaluable guidance for our WildHub community. This interview not only deepens our understanding of the challenges but also highlights the proactive measures needed for effective wildlife law enforcement.

As we unite as a community, let's take to heart the call to action — to become voices for the voiceless creatures, champions of conservation, and advocates for a sustainable future.

By sharing this knowledge, we aim to inform, inspire, and foster a sense of shared responsibility among WildHub members. Together, our commitment can truly make a difference in protecting the precious wildlife that shares our planet.

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Go to the profile of Christine Tansey
2 months ago

Thanks for sharing your experience @Arvind Kumar Chaurasia through @Ussi Abuu Mnamengi's interview. It was interesting to hear how complex the interrelationships between other forms of crime and wildlife crime are. 

You mentioned the role of digital technology both as a way that wildlife crime is conducted and as a tool of enforcement. Are there any particular tools that you think will have a positive impact in future?

Go to the profile of Arvind Kumar Chaurasia
2 months ago

@Christine Tansey  read my Posts @https://wildhub.community/users/arvind-kumar-chaurasia/content

I have discussed about many useful tools for wildlife law enforcement.

Go to the profile of Christine Tansey
about 2 months ago

Great - it is useful to signpost these for our WildHub community!