After the ivory kingpin, Umesh Aggarwal was nabbed in 2015, there were various discussions within the Kerala forest department officials on what could be the next steps to detect and prevent such crimes. The officials, after intense brainstorming, brought in a robust system by the name Hostile Activity Watch Kernel (HAWK). The system was developed by Kerala-based Leopard Tech Labs, a company formed by a group of young enthusiastic techies, in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Kerala Forest Department. The shift from manual to a digital system for clocking crimes showed great potential to not just reduce and prevent wildlife crimes but also generate data that could throw patterns to predict such crimes in future.
The first of its kind system, spearheaded by the Kerala forest department, HAWK is slowly taking its footsteps to the adjacent states of Karnataka and Maharashtra, and hopes to expand to the other Indian states to have a uniform system across the country to stop such organised wildlife crimes.
Sharada Balasubramanian, an environmental and development journalist traveled to Forest department offices in Kerala where this system was implemented. She spent time at Periyar Tiger Reserve to understand how it works. She spoke to Dr. Jose Louies, from Wildlife Trust of India, Manu Sathyan, DFO at Periyar Tiger Reserve, Sajesh Kumar ACF, Kerala forest department and Allen Shaji from Leopard Tech Labs, who developed the system HAWK.
This investigation is part of a series on environmental crime in Asia, supported by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, the Henry Nxumalo Foundation and Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism."