Course on Monitoring and Detecting Illegal Wildlife Trade Online or Through Social Media Platforms and Procedures for Seizing Digital Equipment and Digital Evidence to boost enforcement efforts against wildlife crimes
A joint press release from Sabah Wildlife Department and Danau Girang Field Centre
23 January 2022, Kota Kinabalu: Members of the Wildlife Crime Interagency Working Group comprising of representatives of various state departments, law enforcement agencies and NGOs recently completed a two (2) day course earlier last week on how to monitor social media platforms and seize digital equipment and evidence applicable to wildlife trafficking and illegal trade.
Jointly organised by Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD), the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), and Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC), the training provided an opportunity for the working group to improve their knowledge on theoretical and practical aspects related to information gathering using open-source techniques, “First Responder Activity” and also “Data Preservation” that will be used during raid activities carried out against the criminals involved who use Social Media as a platform for criminal conduct.
This course is the 14th in a series funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), through the project “Boosting Enforcement and Forensic Capability to Deter Wildlife Trafficking in Sabah” coordinated by the SWD and DGFC. Poaching, hunting, illegal killing and trade, are real threats to the many endangered species in Sabah and have been at the forefront of wildlife enforcement agenda, more so in recent years.
Mr Augustine Tuuga, Director of the Sabah Wildlife Department explained: “recently the illegal trade of Wildlife species is often carried out virtually or through social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram and so on. This presents a huge challenge to enforcement personnel, especially in collecting digital evidence. Cases of departmental arrests involving online sales are still few and often arrests are made when it is ensured that protected wildlife is under the possession of the suspect. Furthermore, under the existing law it is not an offense for a person to display animals that are protected or fully protected on his/her social media platform.”
Meanwhile, DGFC has been working intensely with SWD to combat these criminal activities by organising and facilitating trainings like this one, and also by setting up an Intelligence Unit and a Forensic Unit at the SWD.
Dr. Milena Salgado Lynn who is the coordinator of the INL project for DGFC said, “We are very grateful to MCMC for agreeing to form a close cooperation with the SWD in providing the training courses last week for the Interagency Working Group also set up during this Programme. The feedback from the participants has been very positive. Although for many it was a new topic, they mentioned feeling more confident in doing this type of online investigation. It is the commitment and response of the participating agencies that has enabled us to successfully deliver previous courses, despite the COVID-19 pandemic constraints.”
“It was very encouraging when INL offered to fund the continuation of the project for two more years, after the original end date of October 2021. We look forward to the next two years and seeing the impact it can do to curb these illegal activities,” she concluded.
Almost RM8 million have been funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the US State Department towards this enforcement and forensic program which has been running since October 2019.
For more information on this press release, please contact:
Dr Benoit Goossens
Danau Girang Field Centre