How cloud is keeping animals in the wild

  • techUK techUK
    Friday19Jul 2019

    Craig Melson, Programme Manager for Digital Devices, Environment and Compliance and Consumer Electronics, discusses cloud computing and the illegal wildlife trade.

Throughout the week you would have read plenty on the efficiency and productivity gains from cloud-based services, but in this blog I want to set out how cloud can reduce efficiency and make life harder – for poachers.


The illegal wildlife trade is a nasty, violent and destructive business. It is driving iconic species to extinction and causing untold environmental damage. It deprives developing countries of tourism revenue and brings misery as armed gangs proliferate and prosper. Stopping this has gained significant progress from governments across the world and we are seeing the tech sector leverage their resources in this fight. So what specifically can the cloud do?


The answer is ‘various scales of a lot’ depending on what supporting infrastructure is in place. In the field, one researcher used historic data, satellite imagery and algorithms to estimate where a rhino would be, which allowed local rangers to adapt their patrol patterns. In the trafficking and sale phases, Intel and TRAFFIC use a range of datasets such as sightings of illegal animal products on online marketplaces, field reports from local police, criminal record data, seizure data and customs intelligence to pinpoint where and when the trafficking gangs are operating. 


Closer to home we are also seeing cloud services protecting UK bird species, as endangered species face a high risk of being illegally killed as they nest and live on shooting estates. To combat this decline, the RSPB developed lightweight GPS trackers for birds which emit data that is stored in the cloud in an analytics ready format. This is when put through their ‘Merlin’ system and tells the RSPB and others where birds are and can help determine where and when they may have been illegally trapped or killed.


However the highest volume of illegal wildlife trafficking is not in animals, but in trees and we are seeing cloud technology deployed here too. Illegal timber may seem less sad than a poached rhino or elephant, but it means habitat loss for animals plus removes the earth’s best defence against carbon dioxide emissions. To help understand the scale of the problem and create a list the Chatham House think-tank created an open-source cloud-based system to log (sorry had to be done) instances of illegal deforestation, the species at risk and where. These insights can be used to design interventions and policy.


These are just some of the examples of how cloud providers are partnering with environmental experts and is something techUK is very proud to help facilitate.


To find out more about the UK’s future cloud ecosystem, visit our landing page by clicking here!

  • Tom Henderson

    Tom Henderson

    Programme Manager | Smart Cities and IoT
    T 020 7331 2043
  • Craig Melson

    Craig Melson

    Programme Manager | Digital Devices, Consumer Electronics, Export Controls and Environment and Compliance
    T 020 7331 2172

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