The department of biodiversity, forest and oceans of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and Open Knowledge France announce a partnership to promote open data and digital commons in the fight against the traffic of endangered species. The objective of the partnership is to develop an application that will help to better identify endangered species, determine their legal status according to their country of origin, and inform about the incurred penalties. The partnership also aims to promote access, use and contribution to open data on endangered species through the digital commons such as wikicommons or wikidata.

This partnership, for which Open Knowledge France has received a grant of 10 000 euros, is the result of a collaboration between the Ministry and the association during the #Diplonum hackathon which was held on January 25 and 26, 2017 (summary in french). This project will also be supported by a large number of actors specialized in the fight against endangered species trafficking, such as the National Museum of Natural History, the CITES Secretariat, in charge of the International Convention on Endangered Species, the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), which publishes the Species + database, the French customs, as well as wikidata and wikicommons experts.

Fighting the traffic of endangered species of wild fauna and flora

The traffic of endangered species, fauna and flora, is estimated to be  the fourth illegal trade in the world in terms or monetary value. It finances terrorism and contributes to the extinction of species. To respond to this threat, an international cooperation framework has been established, called CITES, for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This framework defines a list of threatened species by country of origin, 35,000 species in total, as well as a set of protection measures to be applied, such as the prohibition of trade.

In France, the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs coordinates the fight against the illegal trafficking of endangered species abroad through the department of biodiversity, forest and oceans and in collaboration with other local and international actors such as the French customs, the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, but also the Museum of Natural History and the international CITES secretariat based in Geneva within the UNEP, the United Nations Environment Agency.

The data challenge

One of the main challenges in implementing the CITES agreement is the ability to identify precisely which species are endangered and which sanctions to apply  according to the country of origin. The issue is to better inform the various stakeholders involved inthe fight against trafficking, in particular customs officers and other control forces, but also to raise awareness among potential trafficking actors (sellers, buyers, tourists, etc.) on the penalties incurred.

A large set of information about the protection of endangered species already exists, including the Species + register, which lists species and their legal status by country. However, this register is intended primarily to experts, and is of a less use for customs officers or tourists, and does not enable or facilitate  species identification. Besides, most of the information is only available in English.

Objectives of the partnership

This partnership aims to develop a web and mobile application that allows to easily identify a species, determine its status, and inform about related sanctions. Such an application could be used both to raise awareness among tourists, but also to strengthen control forces and other actors within the CITES framework.

The second axis of this partnership is to explore the opportunities offered by digital commons to better manage, promote and use available digital content related to endangered species such as databases, images and texts of laws.

About Open Knowledge France

Open Knowledge France is a French non-profit organisation (association of law 1901) member of the Open Knowledge International network. Open Knowledge France develops tools, projects and communities to promote open data and open access to knowledge in France and in Francophone countries.

About the Biodiversity, Forests and Oceans department of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs

The Biodiversity, Forests and Oceans department is part of the Sub-Directorate for Environment and Climate elaborates, which elaborates policies related to tackling climate change, access to sustainable energy, forests and biodiversity protection, terrestrial and marine ecosystems preservations, natural hazards prevention, and supports the establishment of sustainable production and consumption activies.

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