Is Artificial Intelligence a Friend or Foe for Wildlife Law Enforcement?

Is Artificial Intelligence a Friend or Foe for Wildlife Law Enforcement?

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Ever since the launch of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot by OpenAI in November 2022, artificial intelligence has become the hot topic for discussion regarding its advantages and disadvantages such as its misuse by criminal elements including wildlife traffickers. Like any other technology Artificial Intelligence is also a double-edged sword.

Wildlife traffickers can weaponize this for carrying out their illicit activities in many ways. They can use AI based Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and ChatGPT enabled search engines like Microsoft Bing can be tricked with right prompts to find the various accounts/vendors on different social media sites /e-commerce sites as well as online forums and websites dealing in wildlife contrabands. Similarly this can also facilitate in finding Groups on instant messaging apps like WhatsApp created to deal in wildlife contrabands. 

The artificial intelligence based algorithms of social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube etc. serve as enabler of wildlife trafficking. Though the intended purpose of these algorithms is to facilitate connecting like-minded individuals but it also facilitates connecting dealers in wildlife contrabands. The algorithms of e-commerce sites also promote illegal wildlife trade on their platform. Once you search for a particular wildlife contrabands, the algorithms of these sites start suggesting to you various other posts of wildlife contrabands on your subsequent logging in to their platforms.

Furthermore AI tools can also provide step by step guide to the wildlife traffickers as to how to remain anonymous  and hide their real identity from wild life law enforcement agencies while carrying out illegal wildlife trade on digital landscape including darknet.

In third world countries due to their financial constraints, officials of wildlife law enforcement agencies are not well equipped in terms of training, investigative skill-sets, wildlife forensics, digital forensics and other technical & logistical resources. This result in unprofessional investigation of wildlife crime cases with many loopholes leading to acquittal of wildlife criminals. AI tools like ChatGPT due to its very large and diverse training datasets can help lawyers of wildlife crime accused in finding various case laws discussing lacunae in investigation leading to acquittal of accused which may help them in getting their clients acquitted citing similar lacunae in investigation report submitted during the trial.

The discussion hereinabove highlights how Artificial Intelligence can become a friendly tool for wildlife traffickers. Now let me discuss how wildlife law enforcement agencies can harness Artificial Intelligence to combat wildlife crimes.

Despite the fact that nothing gets loaded onto airoplanes without getting X-Rayed/scanned, wildlife trafficking by air is rampant. This highlights the need for technological intervention. Artificial Intelligence based Multi-Species Models can be developed with training dataset consisting of large number of images of wildlife contrabands which are in illegal trade.  Such AI based Models can be easily installed in X-Ray Machines/Scanners deployed at Sea Ports, Land Ports, Airports, Air Cargo Complexes, International Courier Terminals, Foreign Post Offices etc. This can help law enforcement in easy detection and prevention of wildlife trafficking by air, sea or through land borders.

ChatGPT can help law enforcement officials in generating  Python Codes for data extraction which cab be used for extracting illegal wildlife trade related data from various social media, e-commerce sites etc. Law enforcement can also share code words, key words, images and videos of wildlife contrabands with social media, e-commerce sites, search engines etc. for incorporating them in their AI/Machine Learning/Deep Learning algorithms so that post related to illegal trade of wildlife contrabands can be flagged, blocked and details of the offenders may be shared with law enforcement for taking legal action against them.

Artificial Intelligence can be harnessed by enforcement officials to analyze the wildlife crime data bank maintained by their Agency. Such AI based data analytics may help in understanding the patterns & trends of wildlife crimes, hotspots, species in trade, habitual offenders, communities involved in poaching, seasons when particular species are more vulnerable to poaching/illegal trade, modus operandi etc. Accordingly wildlife law enforcement officials may devise their customized strategies to combat wildlife trafficking. AI enabled Data Analytics may also generate predictive intelligence which can be used for preventing poaching/illegal wildlife trade.

AI tools like ChatGPT may also help wildlife enforcement officials to know about various OSINT Tools that they can use for intelligence gathering from open source and also for investigation into wildlife crimes. ChatGPT can also help them in learning how to use those OSINT Tools by showing them all the steps involved. ChatGPT can also help in training the wildlife enforcement officials for various real life law enforcement scenarios such as to how to conduct effective interrogation of wildlife crime accused by simulating such conversations.

Generative AI Models can also assist wildlife enforcement officials in creating realistic and convincing undercover account on various social media sites; in infiltrating closed user groups dealing in wildlife contrabands; in making friends with those dealing in wildlife contrabands; in analyzing IWT related profiles,  posts, interactions, trade routes etc.; in devising  effective strategies to counter  wildlife cyber crimes and also in conducting undercover operations.

AI enabled camera traps, drones, patrol vehicles and control room when integrated with each other may help wildlife authorities in better management of  wildlife protected areas and also in mitigating the risks of unauthorized access and poaching inside the protected areas.

In a nutshell, Artificial Intelligence opens new frontiers of challenges for wildlife law enforcement on the one hand, but on the other hand it also provides many new weapons for the arsenal of wildlife law enforcement which can be used in their fight against the wildlife traffickers. 

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