Artificial Intelligence: AI-Based Detection Of Trafficked Wildlife Under Trial At Heathrow

Heathrow Airport, Microsoft, and Smiths Detection collaborate on an AI system to detect wildlife concealed in passengers’ baggage.

A multispecies, AI-based model jointly developed by Heathrow, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Smiths Detection has shown, in initial trials, a success rate of over 70% in its detection of illegally trafficked wildlife concealed in baggage and air cargo. (PassengerTerminalToday)

Project SEEKER

Smiths Detection, a global leader in threat detection and security screening technologies, contributed images from its library of X-rays captured at Heathrow using its CTX 9800 baggage scanners. These images were used to train the Microsoft AI for Good model. A wealth of imagery was available, given that these scanners screen up to 250,000 bags daily.

It became imperative to bring AI into the massive task of detection of wildlife trafficking, which has fast become one of the most lucrative global crimes.

Combating trafficking through detection and deterrence has a three-fold advangtage: Turning off the revenue streams generated by these highly organized criminal networks; stop animal poaching; and restrict the spread of Zoonotic diseases spread from animal to humans.

“The trial has demonstrated that using AI-powered technology to automatically uncover threats and contraband significantly reduces operator burden,” said Richard Thompson, Market Director, Aviation at Smiths Detection.

“Following this successful trial, we’re calling for major transport hubs including airports to deploy the technology and put the model to work on regional illegal wildlife trafficked priorities along with NGOs and law enforcement agencies to share intelligence data,” said Daniel Haines, Data and Artificial Intelligence Solution Specialist at Microsoft. “Together, we can stop illegal wildlife trafficking in its tracks.”

Jonathan Coen, Director of Security at Heathrow, said: “Project SEEKER and our partnership with Microsoft and Smiths Detection will help us keep one step ahead of traffickers, by exploring new technology that will help us protect the world’s most precious wildlife.”

New mobile app – Wildlife Sentinel

Separately, it was reported Thursday that Crime Stoppers International (CSI) had released Wildlife Sentinel, a new mobile app designed to help staff at airports, airlines, and other aviation companies report suspected wildlife trafficking, anonymously, and without fear of repercussions.

CSI created the app in collaboration with the USAID Reducing Opportunities for Unlawful Transport of Endangered Species (ROUTES) Partnership.

“Corruption is helping wildlife traffickers move their illicit goods undetected through aviation industry routes. Using the app, aviation personnel can share their concerns safely, without fear of repercussions from corrupt officials or other personnel,” said Crawford Allan, Leader of the ROUTES Partnership and Senior Director for America and Wildlife Crime at TRAFFIC.

Related Story: Researchers Use AI To Warn Of Wildlife Health Concerns

Image of Tiger Cub Rescued at Bangkok Airport: Flickr

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