Focused on social good, World Changing Ideas is one of Fast Company’s major annual awards programs that seeks to elevate finished products and brave concepts committed to stemming the climate crisis, social injustice, economic inequality and other grave global challenges. Awarding ingenuity and fostering innovation, a panel of judges choose winners, finalists, and honorable mentions from a pool of 3,000 entries based on feasibility and the potential for impact. Honorees will be featured in Fast Company’s May/June 2020 print magazine, hitting newsstands May 5.
Panthera President and CEO, Dr. Fred Launay, stated, “Our PoacherCam is truly a breakthrough technology that has the potential to significantly address one of the biggest threats facing big cats in the wild: poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Combined with ranger training that utilizes technology, analysis and response, the PoacherCam has become a real game-changer in the fight against poaching. We are honored to be recognized by Fast Company for this innovative conservation tool.”
While Netflix’s hit docuseries Tiger King has recently shined a spotlight on captive tigers in the United States, one of the biggest threats to tigers and other big cats in the wild is poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. Fewer than 3,900 tigers remain in the wild, down from 100,000 that roamed Asia a century ago, largely due to demand for the species’ bone, skin, claws and other organs frequently used in traditional medicines. Poachers are now also increasingly setting their scopes and snares on other big cats including lions, leopards and jaguars, as tiger populations dwindle.
The illegal wildlife trade is now ranked among the world's most lucrative illicit enterprises, with transnational poaching networks becoming better established and harder to disrupt than ever before. Combating the over $20-billion-a-year illegal wildlife trade head-on, Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, worked with IBM software engineers to develop the PoacherCam in 2014.
When a human is detected, the PoacherCam software instantly and wirelessly transmits images and locations to a network of rangers, law enforcement officials and site security experts, who are then able to apprehend poachers before they kill or use images obtained to later identify and prosecute suspects. Outfitted with WiFi, Bluetooth and GSM wireless capabilities, the PoacherCam’s images can be checked remotely, the technology is affordable at $250 a piece and it is also small, making it easier to camouflage from poachers.
The PoacherCam is currently used in protected sites in tiger and lion ranges, including India, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand and Benin, and has lead to successful ambushes and apprehensions of poacher suspects. Production of the seventh iteration of the PoacherCam is underway, with the delivery of 5,000 units expected in 2020.
Panthera Chief Technologist, Chris Cline, stated, “Counter-poaching operations in deep forests, where many species make their homes, is a daunting task. It can take weeks for patrol teams to locate a poaching gang - yet preventing that gang from killing relies on early detection, and that’s where PoacherCams are making an impact.”
Cline continued, “We are at a tipping point where early detection and reducing poaching will make the difference between survival or extinction for wild tigers and other big cats that are now teetering on the brink. The PoacherCam is a revolutionary product that could help to ensure the future existence of some of the world’s most magnificent wild animals.”
Fast Company Editor-in-Chief, Stephanie Mehta, stated, “There seems no better time to recognize organizations that are using their ingenuity, resources, and, in some cases, their scale to tackle society’s biggest problems.”
In 2016, the PoacherCam was a finalist in Vodafone Americas Foundation's annual Wireless Innovation Project, a competition for wireless-related technologies aimed at solving some of the world’s most critical issues.