TECHNOLOGY GONE WILD: 5 APPS SAVING THE PLANET

Conservation doesn’t have to mean getting your hands dirty: thanks to an emergence of digital apps, everyone from rangers on the ground in the wilderness to urban foodies and gamers who might usually feel a million miles away from conservation issues are putting their thumbs to work saving our planet’s wildlife. Here are five nifty tools that caught our eye:

The App for Influencers (That Means You)

The #climate app by ClimateX harnesses social power for the greater good by helping you discover and share current, legitimate actions against climate change in order to raise environmental awareness and bring about real change. Users build a profile and specify the categories and locations that interest them; then #climate gathers the most impactful climate change actions from leading, trusted non-profit organisations, including the intended impact and how to get involved. By sharing these causes on social media, which can be done with a single tap through the app, users can garner new supporters, encourage further shares and more generally spark conversation online – plus, they can even keep tabs on the impact they’re having, since the app records metrics including the number of supporters they’ve recruited, the count of reactions they’ve inspired, and the number of shares they’ve caused.

The App for Animal Lovers

iDOPT cleverly combines technology, fundraising and wildlife conservation education at the tap of a touchscreen.“We’ve partnered with wildlife sanctuaries with adoption programmes to allow the users to adopt orphaned endangered wildlife to establish an emotional connection between donor and cause”, explains iDOPT founder Sandor Weyers. “The idea is to use a technology-based approach through an education app to reach a much wider, much larger audience more effectively and more efficiently”, he goes on. Rather than receiving updates via email, animal-loving adopters are fed photos, videos and stories about their charges via the app in what becomes a far more immediate, interactive and engaging experience. iDOPT also incorporates a gaming element that features wildlife quizzes and rewards – the more correct answers users give, the more badges they can unlock.

The App for Foodies

It’s easy to forget that the choices we make about what we eat have a huge impact on the environment; but navigating what’s safe to chow down on can be confusing. Thankfully there are a couple of apps making it simpler to find out whether seafood is sustainable or not: both the UK-focused Good Fish Guide by the Marine Conservation Society and the SASSI List by South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative enable users to browse or search whatever fish they spy on a recipe, menu or at the store and instantly discover its colour-coded sustainability rating, ranging from red (unsustainable/don’t buy) to green (sustainable/best choice). The Good Fish Guide even includes suggested recipes for cooking sustainable fish and rates many restaurants and cafés serving seafood, allowing diners to make informed choices when eating at home or out and about.

The App for Gamers

Listed as one of the most widely trafficked mammals in the world, the pangolin is particularly coveted in Asia for its scales, which are believed to heal rheumatism and asthma, and meat, which is considered a delicacy; as such, all eight pangolin species in Asia and Africa are endangered. A new WeChat game, developed by digital agency Wunderman in partnership with WildAid, prompts users to make their own decisions about the fate of pangolins in a virtual forest: players search for the animals and upon catching one are given the option to sell it, cook it or bring it home. No matter which option they choose, they are shown a message from Chinese superstar and WildAid ambassador, Angelababy, which they are encourage to share with friends and on social media: “When the buying stops, the killing can, too.” Chinese consumers, particularly the younger generation, are very focused on gaming and social media, to the extent that “If you provide them an engaging game, they are almost four times more likely to engage in the message than if you simply posted something”, according to Bryce Whitwam, CEO of Wunderman. “We thought it would help to better understand the pangolin’s true habitat through a game, rather than just simply releasing a video or a simple ad.”

The App for Rangers

Rangers patrolling Kenya’s Mara North Conservancy are tapping into WILD (Wildlife Information Landscape Database), developed by iLAB at Strathmore University and funded by USaid. With the help of enhanced GPS technology, rangers can use their Android phones to plan and log patrols and report incidents such as the sound of gunfire, human-wildlife conflict, discovery of snares, suspicious footprints and poacher sightings – the locations of which can be relayed to a monitor in real time in order to aid other rangers on patrol. Plus, the data collected by the app can also benefit researchers and scientists studying animal behaviour and ecosystems. If adopted on a wider range across many more networks, this project has the potential to enhance both wildlife protection and research.

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Anton Crone
Previously a freelance journalist and editor of Africa Geographic, Anton Crone is CEO of Safarious, an online travel portal to the world’s wild places. Anton not only focuses on wildlife, he also finds himself drawn to the people he meets on his travels. He looks at journalism as a way to connect people of differing creeds and cultures, and through his writing and photography he tries to uphold the importance of the communities that live side by side with wildlife.