Cool Ways to Help
ZSL’s Alasdair Davies tells us how it’s done.
Alasdair Davies is a Technical Advisor for the Zoological Society of London’s Conservation Technology program and a web developer for the EDGE of Existence program. His current focus is the delivery of ZSL’s Instant Wild project, the advancement of camera trapping technology, and the future development of the EDGE website. Alasdair is also a founder and director of the primate conservation organization The Great Primate Handshake. We conducted this interview via email.
When and where was the idea for Instant Wild hatched?
ZSL’s Instant Wild programme started life on a staircase within Conservation Programmes at Regent’s Park, London—better known as the location of ZSL London Zoo. It was one of those “Have you seen the new GSM-enabled camera traps? Aren’t they great…” conversations whilst holding the morning’s first mug of coffee and checking in on the day’s schedule.
Is there a story behind it?
Although the conversation on the staircase was brief, our Director of Conservation Programmes, Jonathan Baillie, was luckily the other person on the stairs that morning. Later that afternoon, he called me into his office. It was evident that he had been pondering the morning’s conversation and I could sense that there was an exciting idea on the table. Within in an hour, the name Instant Wild was decided upon and the concept of sending the very photos the cameras take to the general public for instant analysis was founded. We’d have hundreds of thousands of eyes scanning thousands of photos from across the globe every single day. It could answer so many questions, and there wasn’t a second to lose. Read more…
I just got a personal tracking device that tells me how many calories I’ve burned, how much sleep I got last night, and how many more steps I need to take to meet my daily goal. Lots of people I know are busily keeping track of their activities with these sorts of devices, competing with each other to get the highest daily total.
As I fiddled with the device and got it set up, I wondered if it would be possible to create a similar device that would track things like how much carbon we each add to the environment, how much waste we generate, how much water we use—and how much we’ve done during the day to mitigate our negative impact on the planet. The daily goal: to get as close to impact-neutral as possible. Read more…
Animal Warrior* has all of the elements of a great video game: a perilous task, bad guys, all kinds of obstacles to overcome and puzzles to solve, exotic settings, high-tech weaponry, and general mayhem.
Well, it could have all of those things, if someone would just take the idea and produce it. In addition to making a pile of money, the game could do some good in the real world by highlighting one of the most important conservation issues of our time.
The goal: Stop evil poachers from capturing and killing endangered species like rhinos, elephants, lions, tigers, orangutans, and leopards in remote areas of Africa and Asia. The poachers are using assault rifles, helicopters, and high-tech detection and communications tools to locate and kill the animals – and the game wardens trying to protect them. Stop the poachers, save the animals, and help the wardens.
Game action: Outsmart the poachers and smugglers by undertaking paramilitary maneuvers to thwart, capture, or kill them, overcoming obstacles and various natural perils in remote and challenging environments, and creating alliances with local game wardens and communities. Avoid inadvertently injuring or killing randomly appearing eco-tourists and innocent locals, and don’t cause significant habitat destruction as you confront and battle poachers.
Not only would Animal Warrior be a blast (literally) to play, it could also help to create wider awareness of and empathy for the real-world problem of poaching. Extra bonus: some portion of the likely-to-be-huge profits could be donated to current anti-poaching efforts in Asia and Africa. It’s a win-win-win. Who’s game?
*My working title for the game; if you create it, you can call it whatever you want. And take all the credit, too.
Taking to the skies to save rhinosThis October I wrote a post about the Wildlife Conservation “Build and Fly” UAV Challenge, a project sponsored by Kashmir-Robotics to help save the rhinos of Kruger National Park. Participating teams will compete for a $25,000 prize.
It’s exciting to see that 100 teams from 19 countries have signed up to participate; there are four multinational teams.
Volunteer to help the Challenge
Challenge organizers are in need of volunteers to help with marketing, team coordination, blogging, social media, engineering, and more. See the Challenge Facebook page for more information and updates on the competition.
Wildlife Conservation “Build and Fly” UAV Challenge
Kashmir-Robotics, a division of the Al-Kareem Foundation, is hosting the Wildlife Conservation Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Challenge to stop rhino poaching in Kruger National Park.
Kruger National Park in South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s rhinoceros. Since 2010, over 50% of the rhino population in Kruger has been killed by poachers harvesting the rhinos’ horns for the Asian black market. The park is patrolled by rangers, but since Kruger is about the size of New Jersey, it’s nearly impossible for them to catch poachers in the act.
“Most of the rhino poaching in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is done by incursions from neighboring Mozambique. Poachers enter the park and cross the unfenced South African border in the bush at night. They will then hunt for rhino and other animals using large caliber hunting rifles and night vision goggles. They are also armed with AK47 automatic assault rifles. They can illegally enter the park anywhere along the 220 mile border with Mozambique and operate for 1-3 days or longer at a time. This is rough African bush. There are almost no roads, only narrow game paths. No runways. No cellphone signal at ground level. They need to be detected and stopped before any animals are shot. “
The challenge is to design aircraft that can be launched in the bush, operate for hours over the rugged terrain, detect and locate poachers, communicate over existing commercial infrastructures, and be recovered in the bush — all for under $3000 in materials. Read more…
We’re talking plankton. Yep, plankton.
Bet most of you don’t know much about plankton, but you probably should, since they contribute substantially to the oxygen you breathe, among other essential planet-supporting activities. Now there’s a fun, mind-expanding way to learn about these exceptionally hard-working organisms—and help scientists collect data about the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans.
In mid-September, Zooniverse launched a project to crowd-source identification of plankton from photographic images captured at various locations around the globe. By identifying the numbers, sizes, and types of plankton found in these areas, scientists can analyze where and when plankton occur at different depths in the ocean; this information is a key to understanding the health of the oceans’ ecosystems.
On Kickstarter: Beautiful Photographs of Habitat Restoration
In the early 1900s, thousands of acres of Kenyan forest were cleared for the production of monoculture crops of tea and the eucalyptus used to dry it. Now some of that habitat is being restored by the Ecological Restoration Alliance, a group of botanic gardens from the US, UK, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, China, Australia, and Jordan. Their goal is to restore 100 damaged and degraded habitats across 6 continents in 20 years. The places they’re targeting include tropical forests, prairies, wild places within cities, wetlands, and coastal sites — ecosystems that are threatened and no longer able to sustain people’s livelihoods or to support biodiversity.
The Alliance’s approach includes restoring wild areas, protecting restored habitats, and creating socioeconomic benefits for local communities. And it’s an approach that works. In just 12 years, restoration of the upland forest in Kenya has transformed a eucalyptus plantation into a thriving forest with over 150 bird species, a wide range of mammals, and hundreds of rare and endangered tree species. Read more…