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HomekarnatakaKarnataka Forest Dept to throw digital dragnet to crackdown on poachers, smugglers

Karnataka Forest Dept to throw digital dragnet to crackdown on poachers, smugglers

HD Kote: Managing wildlife crime and forest offences will soon shift to a digital environment in a move that will not only act as a designer in catching poachers and smugglers slipping away through state borders but also strengthen the legal arm of the department in ensuring conviction through streamlining the process.

The Karnataka Forest Department is adopting the Hostile Activity Watch Kernel (HAWK) a software developed by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). The platform will act as the nerve centre where data regarding death of wildlife, suspected criminal activities and movement of suspicious persons and vehicles will help officials to make informed decisions to take timely measures.

Forest officials will begin registering wildlife cases online on the HAWK’s live platform, which will provide real-time information about the offender’s history as all the aspects of the wildlife crime management, including legacy cases, are digitised. The initiative has been taken at a time the Karnataka Forest Department has launched a state-wide crackdown on the illegal possession of tiger claws and pelts.

Subhash K Malkhede, IFS, PCCF (Wildlife) & Chief Wildlife Warden said, “The HAWK system will help the department to manage and monitor data regarding forest and wildlife crime across the state in real-time. This will increase the overall efficiency of the department in crime management.”

Officials have been working for more than a year to feed cases back to 1993. The information will enable analysis of information and prepare graphs and maps, leading to developing preventive plans. The platform will be available on mobile, where staffers can monitor movement of suspects, vehicles, live responses and exchange intelligence with their counterparts in the neighbouring states.

Vivek Menon, WTI Founder and Executive Director, stated, “We initiated the development of HAWK as there are no such systems present in the country to manage information regarding wildlife crime and criminal activities. We are grateful to NTT DATA for their support in bringing this visionary initiative to fruition.”

The officers registering the wildlife cases will fill extensive details on a user-friendly page. The information will help in building a water tight case as delay in legal proceedings will not leave gaps in the management of the cases, regardless of the transfer of officers.

The initiative is supported by NTT DATA, an IT services provider, under its CSR programme. Efforts are ongoing to expand it to the entire country, enabling intelligence sharing and cooperation between different states to imrprove conservation efforts and crack down on smuggling of wildlife parts and forest resources.

A team from the Karnataka Forest Department’s IT cell headed by Mr. Biswajit Mishra initiated the customisation process of HAWK approximately one year ago to ensure that the migration from a manual system into a fully digital one is a smooth transition.

Kerala HAWK helps build water tight case

The implementation of HAWK in Kerala has already helped Karnataka to build a case against an alleged notorious ivory smuggler.

In 2020, Vivek, a range forest officer of the mobile squad in Mysuru, arrested one Pristine D’Silva from the room of a high-end hotel where an ivory deal was ongoing. Pristine claimed that he was innocent and walked into the room to meet someone. There was no case history available against him.

Officials had almost lost the case till WTI established a connection with Manu Sathyan, a forest officer in Kerala. “The Kerala DFO searched the HAWK platform and found that there were several cases pending against Pristine since 2015. The information was passed on to the Mysuru counterparts at the time the magistrate was hearing Pristine’s bail plea. The presentation of the information helped in building a strong case against him,” said WTI’s Jose Louise.

Jose explained that till now, case history was till now dependent on the officer but the HAWK platform enables seamless centralisation and analysis of the information.

(Published 27 October 2023, 18:09 IST)

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