When smugglers and wildlife traffickers turn to social media and e-commerce to illegally sell live exotic animals, facial recognition software (FRS) programs can provide an effective solution. Trafficking in Great Apes and Chimpanzees are two examples of extremely lucrative illicit enterprises that facial recognition software platforms, when paired with existing extensive publicly-available documentary footage and image datasets, can identify trafficked animals in a very short time, especially when compared to manual searching. The manual approach is generally found to be unsuccessful due to its labor-intensive nature, and in being prone to user error, due to facial similarities.
One program under development, called ChimpFace, actually applies facial mapping technology, through an algorithm, to recognize individual chimp faces. Both conservation groups as well as law enforcement agencies can utilize FRS to positively identify trafficked animals offered for sale online, block the sales, arrest the traffickers, and return the stolen animals to their original habitat.
Facial recognition software platforms can be adapted to identify any type of wild animal subject to illegal trafficking and smuggling activities, provided that there is sufficient existing footage and datasets of the species.