WILDLABS is the first global, open online community dedicated to conservation technology. This community is a centralised space for field based conservationists to connect directly with technology experts, to share their challenges and source new ideas for solutions. Connecting with users on the ground will help technologists and innovators to test ideas in field environments, and adapt systems that can accelerate conservation gains.
Today’s conservation challenges are increasingly complex. Many species face unrelenting pressures from poaching, human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, climate change and other threats as they increasingly compete for space and resources with growing human populations.
The numbers are staggering: 73 million sharks are estimated to be killed each year for their fins. Wild tiger populations have plummeted by 97% in the last century to just 3,200. Global demand for ivory has tripled since 1998, and an estimated 30,000 elephants were poached in Africa for their ivory last year. The total number of rhinos killed in South Africa in 2014 alone was over 1,200—up from just 13 in 2007.
Technology has major potential to address threads to wildlife and wild places, if it's field-adapted, affordable and scalable.
Too often, funding limitations, time and organisational barriers mean that the data and lessons learned from research and field tests of technology tools are siloed and not shared between users effectively. Predictably, this leads to unnecessary duplication of effort as new technology users encounter the same challenges faced by others.
To address this challenge, field based colleagues told us that they needed a kind of Facebook-meets-Reddit on conservation tech, so that rangers using drones in Africa could share learning with biologists using quads for dolphin monitoring in Brazil, and obtain real-time advice straight from techies in Silicon Valley, USA.
With WILDLABS, we have built an online platform that support a global network of experts to connect and provide advice on technology tools for specific conservation needs. Through the community, conservationists are connecting directly with technology experts, explaining the challenges they face and sourcing support to solve these problems.
With seed funding from tech sector giants Arm and Google.org, the United for Wildlife partners launched the WILDLABS community platform in 2015 to encourage and enable more open sharing of information about the use of technology to fight against illegal wildlife trade and the myriad other pressing issues facing our planet.
The mission of WILDLABS is to resolve conservation issues through technology. The platform brings together a community of conservationists, technologists, engineers, data scientists, entrepreneurs and thought leaders, who use the online platform to:
1. Share information to increase transparency and reduce replication of effort
2. Ask and answer questions to share best practice, to increase efficiency and effectiveness of technology deployment to address conservation challenges
3. Collaborate to improve existing technologies or develop new technologies that address identified conservation needs
Our members are leveraging the community to find information, connections, resources and collaborators. As a result, they are reducing replication in work and effort, increasing access to and reducing the cost of technology-based solutions, and initiated projects that are developing new tools for conservation.
Picture credit: Juan Pablo Moreiras/FFI