NELSPRUIT - From Oxpeckers, a project focusing on capacity development and professional support of environmental data journalists based in Europe.

About the project

A team of five data journalists engaged in a tailor-made five-month training programme on how to use data tools in investigative journalism and environmental storytelling. The training was delivered in four modules and one final e-learning event:

  • Module 1: Using data to enhance environmental journalism
  • Module 2: Using the law to access environmental crime data
  • Module 3: Tools of the trade
  • Module 4: Building a Community of Practice
  • Shared Learning Event: Investigating environmental crime in Europe

The final event, which was the only one open to the wider audience, had more than 70 people registered and 33 attendees from which more than 90% identified as journalists or media outlet representatives.

Over the course of the programme, the participants collected a total of 206 new data points, as well as updates to cases already published on the #WildEye Europe map. The majority of incidents took place between 2018 - 2022, and mainly focused on seizures (68%), followed by convictions (12%), arrests (11%) and court cases (9%).


According to Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism, these are some of the highlights of the work done:

1- Data collected 

Over the course of the programme, the data wranglers collected a total of 206 new data points,  as well as updates to cases already published on the #WildEye Europe map. The majority of incidents took place between 2018 - 2022, and mainly focused on seizures (68%), followed by convictions (12%), arrests (11%) and court cases (9%). 

The data comes from across the continent, including Germany, Italy, the UK, France and the Netherlands. Some of the most popular items involved were European eels and ivory and encouragingly, shows that the punishment meted out has increased over time. This is likely related to new and updated laws, and improved understanding of the severity of environmental crimes across the globe. 

While the analysis below indicates a decline in incidents between 2020 until now, this is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement availability and difficulties around record-keeping and delayed court dates. It is also significantly easier to access seizure and arrest data than follow-ups to the process. 

2- New materials

As part of the programme,  new training and resource materials were produced for the Oxpeckers Learning Kit, to be accessed by environmental journalists and used in the training programmes. This comprises the following:

3- Registrations

The registration process has tracked 250 users, including 162 organisations, that have provided feedback on the use of the #WildEye tools during the life of the programme. The nature of organisations include: freelance journalists, media houses, news agents, academics, documentary makers, writers, legal entities, animals’ rights advocates, environmental NGOs, photographers and funders.

4- Feedback

The current feedback data indicates a broad spectrum of users with broad scope of application of the tool. By far the biggest use of #WildEye is reported as “research”. In some cases, it is specified as research for investigations, for counter-environmental crime operations or research into environmental crime. 

Journalists, specifically, reported that they are using the tool for accessing data and environmental crime-related information, investigations and “staying up to date”. 

About the organisation

Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism was founded on 18 July 2013. The unit has a proven track record in managing multinational journalistic collaborations. Its aims include building capacity for and improving the impact of environmental journalism, inter alia by building networks of data and investigative journalists interested in exposing environmental crimes. Journalistic teams working with Oxpeckers have conducted in-depth, award-winning, transnational investigations. Oxpeckers’ approach is innovative, accurate, strategic and linked to broader social and economic issues.

Since its inception Oxpeckers has pioneered environmental reporting in the digital era by combining traditional investigative journalism techniques with data-driven forensic analysis and best-of-breed mapping visualisations. Complex stories are told visually using dynamic infographics, animated maps and data visualisations that augment more traditional story packages. Journalistic collaborations headed by Oxpeckers have changed lives, policies and laws. Several of the unit’s benchmark projects have been replicated in other parts of the world, and have received global recognition. Oxpeckers has built comprehensive data sets of environmental crimes in Europe, Asia and Africa. We are using these in pioneering data-driven reporting, tracking and training projects aimed at building capacity among journalists in these regions, and providing them with professional support

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