Minecraft on the African savannah
Alastair Davies is a tech consultant with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). He’s been working for several years on various initiatives to educate the public and help raise awareness of endangered species, poaching, and conservation efforts around the globe. One of those projects is Instant Wild, a popular crowdsourcing app used to identify animals captured by camera traps in remote locations around the globe. He recently sent me this update.
We wanted to reach out to new young audiences and get them excited about camera trapping and monitoring wildlife. Over 60% of the Instant Wild audience are over 30, so it was a space we wanted to fill—even more so as young people appreciating wildlife and understanding environmental change and sustainability is incredibly important.
So… we used Minecraft! (40 million players globally)
116 volunteer Minecraft players spent the last 12 months recreating an African wildlife conservancy map and added wildlife (elephants, rhinos, etc.) and actual camera traps to the game. Here’s someone playing the map and finding a camera trap, and here are people having a first play, rescuing pangolins from poachers.
The animals featured are the pangolin, elephant, rhino, and lion, the real victims of illegal trade, plus the rangers trying to save them. The aim of the game is to have fun and learn about conservation. Set in the African savannah, players take on the role of ranger. It’s a fun way to deal with real and serious issues.
We’ve called it We are the Rangers. It has its own website where you can download the map and go on quests as rangers.
You can help make it even more awesome.
There’s an amazing opportunity to take it further and have wildlife spawned (added) to the map in real time, based on the response from people using the Instant Wild app. Spawning wildlife in the game using Instant Wild as the engine would require a mod—perhaps there are some budding Minecraft developers out there who’d like to join in?
Imagine an elephant showing up on Instant Wild and if the percentage of positive votes over 2 minutes says it’s an elephant, we add one to the map next to the in-game camera trap! Perfect for Minecraft Edu that is played in schools worldwide now, and for classes to pretend to patrol as teams of rangers, reporting sightings—based on real-world animal sightings via the Instant Wild cameras.
If you’re interested in helping Alasdair and his team create this mod—or if you have other ideas about how Minecraft can help young people become aware of and get engaged in conservation, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.