Weapons trafficking experts target criminal wildlife trade networks


Rhett A. Butler, Mongabay.com

Date Published
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An outfit usually associated with investigating arms dealers and weapons traffickers is applying its advanced network mapping capabilities to criminal wildlife trafficking syndicates. 

This week Washington D.C.-based C4ADS unveiled the Environmental Crimes Fusion Cell, a unit which consists of a team of analysts, network mapping technology provided by software company Palantir, and a network of NGOs and enforcement agencies. The unit analyses wildlife trade data to provide actionable intelligence to pursue and apprehend traffickers. 

“We adapt methodologies developed for the security community and combine them with cutting-edge Palantir technology and innovative sources of public and commercial data, to map and expose wildlife criminal networks,” C4ADS’s Jackson Miller told Mongabay. “We have a dedicated team of analysts who work across multiple languages, and have a network of over 50 organizations and individuals around the world who feed us raw data and insights from the field that we can analyze and structure in a way that can lead to actionable, real-world results.” 

The initiative includes a web platform that provides current and historic data on large-scale ivory seizures as well as a tracking portal for ammunition typically used for poaching and background information on illicit ivory, rhino horn, and timber supply chains. C4ADS also published a report detailing how trafficking networks often finance their operations and smuggle contraband. It highlights risks and potential exposure for shipping companies and banks. 

C4ADS further announced that it will provide analytical assistance to law enforcement and conservation groups that have raw trade data but lack the capabilities to analyze it. For example, if a local port authority uncovers a stash of unregistered rosewood or a NGO finds a cache of elephant ivory in a warehouse, C4ADS is offering to help figure out how the contraband links to criminal networks and the broader illegal wildlife supply chain. 

“Central to the ‘fusion cell’ concept is the concept of collaboration,” Jackson told Mongabay. “This cell is designed to be supportive of others’ efforts in the field, a resource both conservationists and officials can lean on for objective data and analysis. We hope to become a bridge between the many different stakeholders who must all come together to help solve this very complex issue.”