Conference:  Initiatives to protect wildlife are being discussed at the on-going three-day National Parks Conference in Royal Botanical Park, Lamperi.

In the face of ever-expanding trade in wildlife and its products, forest officials said there is a need of modern technology for enforcement agencies to control such activities.

In the past two years, there were 159 cases of wildlife crimes and Nu 14.51 million collected in fines and penalties.

Forestry and park services department has come up with a mobile application, where information on wildlife crime could be securely and easily accessible to frontline staff.

Forest protection and surveillance unit head, Karma Tenzin said, “The app is ready, field tested on various hand sets running on android and all known bugs have been fixed. It is ready for field deployment.”

The application has been tested on a trial basis in different field offices including Royal Manas Park.

A mobile based app, which contains information about diverse regional species relevant to Bhutan, general description and distribution of the animals, commonly traded animal and animals parts in international market, photographs of the animals and its body parts, and visual clues for more accurate identification of wildlife contraband.

Foresters can share information within and between enforcement agencies on wildlife crimes.

The application also has features that can expedite on-site identification of wildlife contraband enabling speedy prosecution.

“There are ways to differentiate a fake wildlife product from an authentic one,” Karma Tenzin said.

Foresters raised concerns on security of information and the users.

Karma Tenzin said once taken as part of the government system, no one besides the users and local administrators will have any access to the data, user details or communication details on the application, he said.

“The app is fully secure and that the administrators will have full access to the application,” he said.

The app will be hosted on a server owned by the Bhutanese government.  Such apps are being used in other countries to combat wildlife crimes.

He said that the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) through the Wildlife Trust India assured free technical support for the app under a memorandum of understanding.

However, its implementation is subject to formal approval of the government.

Forestry and parks services director general, Chencho Norbu said the department would take a final look in to every aspect of the application.

“Since the process of getting approval from government and transferring ownership takes a long time, the unit should start immediately with it,” the director general said.

Tshering Palden