Two teams from the Philippines bagged two of the three coveted top prizes in the Zoohackaton 2020 Asia regional competition held last November 6 to 8 for their innovative ideas to help in the fight against wildlife trafficking. They were among the eight teams that competed in the event.
Zoohackathon is a global competition run by the U.S. Department of State that brings together coders, students, experts, and enthusiasts to harness the power of technology and come up with solutions for combating illegal wildlife trade.
The first winning team, composed of students from the Ateneo de Manila University and Polytechnic University of the Philippines, conceptualized their Automated and Real-Time Endangered Animal Monitoring through Information Systems or ARTEMIS to tackle illicit and elusive wildlife trade happening via social media platforms. ARTEMIS is a machine learning-powered tool that can scan both texts and images in incriminating social media posts using an algorithm that adapts accordingly to collected data. The data are stored, filtered and verified by experts, and then forwarded to authorities for possible enforcement actions. Policymakers and researchers can use the data as critical information in monitoring and preventing online wildlife crimes and improving wildlife law enforcement.
The other team, Team Maharlika from the Ramon Magsaysay Cubao High School, sought to contribute to halting the illegal pangolin trade and protecting the Philippines’ remaining endemic pangolins through their Pangolin Automated Watch solution. The team’s concept combines digital mapping, infrared technology, camera trapping, and thermal imaging to monitor both pangolin and poacher presence in a conservation area. Aerial drones will be used to gather surveillance data, which will be fed into a cross-platform system and processed by artificial intelligence and machine learning. The data will be very useful in decision-making and actions for patroling and enforcement in pangolin habitats.
For the first time, the Zoohackathon was held completely online this year—drawing teams from across the region to compete for a top three placement. The two teams from the Philippines will advance to the Global Zoohackathon, where they will be pitted against the winners from the other regions across the globe. (Protect Wildlife Project)