New SEE Shell mobile app uses machine learning to tackle illegal trade in tortoiseshell

PORTLAND, Oregon. , April 18, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Non-profit organization SEE Turtles has launched an innovative mobile app that will tackle the illegal trade in hawksbill turtle shells. The beautiful shells of this critically endangered species, commonly known as ‘tortoiseshell’, are used to create jewelry and ornamental keepsakes in many countries. The SEE Shell app uses machine learning to differentiate between real and fake tortoiseshell products; it is the first mobile application to use artificial intelligence to combat the illegal wildlife trade. This new technology will allow tourists, law enforcement and wildlife officials to quickly identify genuine tortoiseshell products.

Despite international laws against the sale of tortoise shells, this trade is active in at least 40 countries, according to the SEE Turtles 2020 “Global Tortoiseshell Trade” report, and it remains the biggest threat to hawksbill turtles. With an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 adult female hawksbill turtles remaining in the wild, this groundbreaking mobile app will play a key role in bringing these animals back from the brink of extinction.

SEE Shell will help eliminate this confusion. This highly accurate application can now discern whether an item is made of real hawksbill turtle shell or faux tortoiseshell materials such as resin, horn, bone, seashells or coconut shells with pinpoint accuracy. at least 94% just by taking a picture. The mobile app uses deep learning technology that compares product photos taken by app users against a data library of over 4,000 real and artificial tortoiseshell products. As images are stored in the catalog from locations around the world, a better understanding of the size and location of the illegal trade in tortoiseshell will emerge.

“Thanks to our conservation partners around the world who provided photos of tortoiseshells, we have created a first in wildlife trafficking; an app that can help individual consumers identify and avoid endangered animal products,” said Alexandre Robillardcomputer vision engineer at SEE Turtles.

SEE Turtles has also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, which provides financial and technical support. As part of SEE Turtles’ “Too Rare to Wear” campaign, partner organizations from Indonesia and Latin America helped field-test the app and will train local law enforcement officials on how to use the app to document the presence of the tortoiseshell trade in their areas. Participating organizations include the Turtle Foundation (Indonesia), Tortugas del Mar Foundation (Colombia), Latin American sea turtles (Costa Rica), The Lute Project (Panama), and Sos Nicaragua.

Media Contact:
Brad Nahill
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Sherry J. Basler