Since its launch in 2014, the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge has played a pivotal role in harnessing the power of science and technology to combat the international crisis of wildlife trafficking. USAID, in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC, has helped 16 winning innovators, chosen from a pool of over 300 applicants, to develop their solutions to fight wildlife crime. Four of these winners were awarded “grand prizes” in 2016 to support their work to grow and refine tools to fight corruption, identify poaching hotspots, and detect illegal sales online and illegal shipments in ports.
This year, to spur continued progress in advancing these promising solutions, USAID offered a new opportunity for Challenge Prize Winners to compete to win three Acceleration Prizes, worth a total of $100,000 each. These prizes utilized a pay-for-results approach to incentivize continued action and reward those who demonstrated the greatest growth in their solution. The winners were selected based on evidence of their progress in refining their solution, leveraging resources, and building partnerships over the last year and a half.
USAID is pleased to announce the three winners of the Acceleration Prizes, worth $100,000 each. While all of the Challenge Prize Winners have made great advances, these three organizations have made truly remarkable progress in turning promising ideas into viable solutions positioned for scale and impact on the ground:
● The University of Washington created a solution to genetically track the illegal pangolin trade and alert law enforcement to the most heavily poached pangolin populations. Once only a concept, it is now nearly ready to be used in forensic labs worldwide. The solution includes a fully developed genetic system and flexible computer software, and can be easily transferred.
● The Zoological Society of London has developed a new version of their Instant Detect system, a wildlife and threat monitoring network for the most demanding environments. The system uses remote sensors and satellite technology to help authorities identify illegal activity in protected areas in near real-time. The new system will be easier to use, easy to deploy, compatible with existing law enforcement tools, and cheaper to purchase.
● Paso Pacifico started with an idea for an artificial sea turtle egg that contains covert tracking devices to reveal illegal trafficking routes. They now have a functional and scalable prototype that is the result of testing and refinement of various artificial egg designs, materials, and production processes, as well as internal transmitter and battery technology.
Congratulations to all of the WCTC Prize Winners on their impressive progress through the Challenge, and to the Acceleration Prize Winners!