In May, with global attention focused on the wildlife trade as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, South African-based organization Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism introduced a digital GeoJournalism tool that tracks and shares information on legal interventions against wildlife trafficking across Asia.
#WildEye Asia maps data on seizures, arrests, court cases and convictions in Asian countries including Thailand, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Japan. The platform also hosts a growing dossier of investigative reporting that either uses the data or is otherwise related to wildlife crime in the region.
The new tool builds on the success of #WildEye Europe, which maps and tracks data on Europe’s role in the illegal wildlife trade. Both tools are the first to create centralized databases of information on seizures, arrests, court cases and convictions related to wildlife crime in Europe and Asia.
Following the launch of the #WildEye Asia platform, Oxpeckers associates discussed the pressing need for investigative data journalism in a webinar on Covid-19 and the Environmental Crisis.
Developed by journalists, for journalists, the idea behind these GeoJournalism tools is to aggregate publicly available data and make it easily accessible for use by journalists, policymakers and the general public.
The maps are populated with icons containing information about legal actions to curb the illegal wildlife trade. Click on any icon and a text box will pop up providing details, such as what products were seized, who was arrested, and how much they were fined.
You can subscribe to alerts on specific cases or areas that interest you to receive updated information and track new developments. Each time the data is updated, you will receive an email with this new information. This way, you do not need to search manually for updated information and can rely on #WildEye to do this for you.
A search function helps users filter information and find topics of interest. If you want to learn about the illegal trade in birds, for instance, simply type “birds” in the search box and you’ll get results covering seizures, arrests, court cases and convictions involving that word.
How can journalists use the tool?
Journalists can use #WildEye to track specific data and observe patterns or trends for use in their investigations. At the click of a button, #WildEye can show you where law enforcement efforts are concentrated, for instance, and whether this is creating judicial certainty.
Why are there more seizures in some countries than others — is this due to more intense controls, or to the preference smugglers have for certain routes? Why do so few seizures result in prosecutions and (fewer still) convictions?
- Read through the Guide for Journalists, available here.
Journalists can use the data to identify cases on which to build new stories, through court records or freedom of information requests. If you would like us to share the raw data with you, please see Get the Data.
One of the goals of the #WildEye project is to build up our dossier of stories based on the data provided. The stories produced through the help of #WildEye data are featured on our map pages, on the Oxpeckers website and by the Earth Journalism Network. These investigations have also been published by a wide range of third-party media outlets.
Add data and stories
Journalists are encouraged to share data through the tools outlined above whenever they come across it. If you know of seizures, arrests, prosecutions or convictions that are not featured, please contact us here. Contributing to the consolidated database will help you keep track of information, for research and story purposes.
We also encourage you to share story ideas with us here. And if you use #WildEye data in your investigations, please let us know so we can help share your stories. Your feedback will assist in refining #WildEye for use by other journalists.
We are excited by how much the #WildEye community has grown, and we look forward to seeing what journalists come up with after being introduced to the platform.
Frequently asked questions
- Where does data available on #WildEye come from? #WildEye largely gathers data through government sources or local and regional partners.
- Can the public contribute data to #WildEye? Yes. Organizations and individuals can assist the project by reaching out if they would like to use #WildEye data, suggest a story or share new data that hasn't yet been made available on the tool.
- Will #WildEye be expanded to cover other regions? Yes, #WildEye currently covers Europe and parts of Central, South, Southeast and East Asia. The long-term goal is to be global, covering regions such as Africa, Latin America and more.
- Why are there very few published stories about the trafficking of invertebrates, such as insects and corals? Investigations tend to focus on charismatic species, but trafficking of invertebrates is huge and problematic. #WildEye has some data on trafficking of these species. To access it you can get in touch via [email protected]. If you have a story idea or data on an invertebrate investigation, you can suggest it here.
- Is the data and information available on #WildEye open source? Yes. Anyone is free to use #WildEye data. We just request that you attribute it. If you use #WildEye data in a story or research, please let us know via [email protected] and we may feature your work on our page and with our network.
- Does #WildEye have timber data? #WildEye has timber data for Southeast Asia but not for other regions at this time. We are currently working on this and welcome any contributions for organizations and individuals.
- Does #WildEye verify the data that is provided by individuals? Yes. One way we do so is by ensuring that it is published on at least three credible news sites. #WildEye also turns to law enforcement and local NGOs in some cases. We ask that anyone submitting information (unless it's an organisation that collects it) provides the source where possible. Original data from law enforcement and courts is preferable.
- Can the maps shared on #WildEye show trading routes for transnational cases? The maps are continuously being developed based on user suggestions, and #WildEye is looking to include routes. #WildEye is able to share routes-based data to individuals interested in specific cases.
- Does #WildEye collaborate with local individuals? Yes. We also welcome stories from citizen journalists as well as long as they adhere to journalism principles and standards. You can email #WildEye directly at [email protected] with a pitch or inquiry.
- Can I download the #WildEye data for a specific country or for a specific type of legal action, such as rhino horn seizures? Check out our Get the Data section, and if you don’t find what you need there, send #WildEye a request. We’ll get in touch via email. In the meantime, you can either use the search function (in the top left-hand corner of the tool), or select a category (in the top right-hand corner of the tool), to have a look at what data is available.
- How can an individual finance their work? Particularly for deep investigations that take a long time. The #WildEye project has supported journalists in the past. If you are interested in pitching a story or want to look for other local journalists to collaborate with, you can reach out here. If #WildEye works with you, we offer support in the form of funding, access to resources and editorial support.
The #WildEye project was developed by Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism in partnership with Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.