Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Will Poachers Use Scientific Tagging To Hunt Endangered Animals

Canadian scientist Steven Cooke is concerned that people
will hack into scientific tracking devices on animals to
harm or kill the animals. 
It seems like every day, I find new ways in which bad people use good technology to do something horrible.

The other day I wrote about the possibility of people making fake news out of virtual people to blackmail, destroy reputations or worse.

Today, I came across another one:
Scientists and researchers often put electronic tags on wild and endangered animals so they can track their movements, behavior and habitat to learn how to keep them safe and prevent them from going extinct.

That, of course, is wonderful.

Now,  however, we learn that scientists are worried that poachers will gain access to this tracking data to learn where animals are in real time, so they can hunt them down.

Nothing like the corpse of an endangered wild animal to prove you're a real he-man. Especially when you cheat and use technology to illegally kill the animal

According to Phys.org,  Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) biology professor has found lots of ancedotal evidence that tools scientists use to study and protect animals are being hijacked to cause harm or exploit animals and fish.

Cooke is the lead author of a a paper on this subject that appeared in the journal Conservation Biology.

Complicating the issue is many scientists get government funding, and people who want to access the tracking devices say that since public funds are being used to conduct the studies, the public should have access to the data.

Plus, scientists are usually eager to share data with colleagues to advance knowledge about the subject at hand, which is usually a good thing.

However, even as scientists use and share the data to gain more understanding of the natural world, others get access so they can destroy that natural world for fun and profit.

For instance, Phys.org says, anglers in Minnesota petitioned for access to data on northern pike movements, arguing that the data was publicly funded. (The anglers wanted to use the data to find the pike and gain prize catches.)

In India, there were attempts to hack GPS data on endangered Bengal tigers to engage in what's being called "cyber poaching."

Cooke said ranchers were interfering with tracking data as wolves were being re-introduced in Yellowstone National Park and divers in the Bahamas were removing satellite tags from sharks.

Phys.org said Cooke got the idea to look into this issue when he took his family on a vacation to Banff National Park in Canada last summer.

There, park rangers banned VHF radio receivers after they learned photographers used telemetry to track tagged animals.

True, the photographers did not intend to harm the animals, but the park rangers worried that too much human interaction would make the animals spooked, stressed or habituated to people.

Once again, then, we have people using technology to be total creeps.

Cooke told the CBC the issue is a wake-up calland he hopes the scientific community can discuss strategies for working with animal tracking data that advances science, protects animals and preserves the interests of the public as well.

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