In the wildlife conservation arena it can be difficult to navigate through the vast amount of wildlife organizations out there, especially ones you would like to support. Most seem to languish with the same projects year after year without making much progress while a handful of the best are growing, evolving and actively creating and solving some of today’s most challenging issues confronting Africa’s wildlife and environment today.
Our team has identified the following organizations as the latest game changers who are forging significant strides in Wildlife Conservation with ingenious and innovative ideas. These nonprofits are using hi-tech, progressive and even old-school remedies to improve our planet in remarkable ways so that donors know they’re getting the absolute most bang (impact) for their buck.
Fully embracing Silicon Valley’s ethos, InnovaConservation is one of the most promising and exciting organizations we’ve seen in the space in decades. This bold nonprofit concentrates solely on the highest impact innovative ideas and technology to change the world.
The brainchild of Chris Minihane, a United Nations contractor and photographer for National Geographic, along with her Co-Founder Mark Sierra, a seasoned startup CFO in Silicon Valley, InnovaConservation focuses on creating and supporting disruptive, offbeat technology and extremely innovative and cost-effective solutions to address and solve some of the most severe threats to wildlife and the environment in Africa.
Some highlights include Sunflower Fences and beehives to repel elephants from raiding crops and a simple light system to keep lions and collateral species from mass deaths due to poisonings.
“Supporting new life-saving ideas and technology as well as funding brilliant and progressive people directly in the field who are already contributing in such significant, innovative ways is one of our biggest priorities,” stated Minihane.
One of InnovaConservation’s hottest projects is going hi-tech with autonomous Spot Robots and deploying them throughout reserves and wildlife parks in Africa to bridge the gaps where rangers and dogs cannot easily traverse. The Spot robot shakes and wakes to any human face image using Trail Guard with thermal night vision technology and facial recognition. The robot is weather proof, cannot be knocked down, can traverse difficult terrain and weather and is being modified to employ pepper spray to quickly halt any killings in the event the rangers and anti poaching dogs cannot arrive in time.
There’s even a rumor that InnovaConservaton is partnering up with Goolge since the giant recently bought Boston Dynamics, the company who developed the Spot Robot. InnovaConservation states that this will be the “new generation of anti-poaching for decades to come.”
InnovaConservation’s website highlights all of their programs, detailing the most unique, outside-the-box solutions that are out there today which are already making huge and significant changes to Africa’s wildlife and environmental crises. We can only say, “Wow! It’s about time!”
Created by founders Charles Knowles, John Lukas and Akiko Yamazaki, Wildlabs is the first global, open online community dedicated to technical ideas in the field of wildlife conservation. This site provides conservationists to share ideas and connect to other experts in the field. Wildlabs also provides forums that allow members collaborate to find technology-enabled solutions to some of the biggest conservation challenges facing our planet.
There are workshops and explainer videos that offer instructions to start building technological innovations and how to apply those inventions to conservation ideas or projects.
The greatest aspect of this organization is their open data fields and collaboration forum’s which allow conservationists to seek assistance or advice on upcoming technology and how to apply them to the environment and wildlife.
They have built an engaging community which, thus far, has tested, advised and collaborated on several conservation projects.
This is a great concept and we hope to see Wildlabs grow and connect even more organizations and people to create technological solutions to conservation in the coming years!
Created a few years ago by Alex Dehgan this organization’s mission is to support research and development into technology to aid conservation.
Dehgan says, “Unless we fundamentally change the model, the tools and the people working on conserving biodiversity, the prognosis is not good.”
One of the nonprofit’s key tactics is setting up prizes to lure in fresh talent and ideas. So far, it has launched six competitions for tools to, among other things, limit the spread of infectious diseases, the trade in products made from endangered species and the decline of coral reefs. The first commercial product to be spun out of the start-up — a portable DNA scanner — is slated for release by the end of the year.
Dehgan hopes that the organization’s prizes and other initiatives will bring innovative solutions to conservation’s deepest problems. Hundreds of people have already been lured in through challenges and engineering programs such as Make for the Planet — a multi-day, in-person event — and an online tech collaboration platform called Digital Makerspace, which matches conservationists with technical talent.
One innovation that has come out of Conservation X Labs is ChimpFace, facial-recognition software designed to combat chimpanzee trafficking that happens through sales over the Internet. A conservationist came up with the idea, Dehgan explains, but she didn’t have the technical expertise needed to achieve her vision. Digital Makerspace helped her to form a team to develop the technology, which uses algorithms that have been trained on thousands of photos provided by the Jane Goodall Institute. ChimpFace can determine whether a chimp for sale has been taken illegally from the wild, because those animals have been cataloged.
Dehgan says that fresh approaches are needed because the field has been slow to change and is struggling to find solutions to huge issues. One problem is that the field is “filled with conservationists”, he says. Dehgan asserts that too much human behaviour and innovation are left out of conservation.
As it seeks to refashion the field, Conservation X Labs is facing some challenges. Foundations find it difficult to support the group’s atypical mission as a non-profit conservation–tech effort, Dehgan says. The company must compete with large tech firms to hire engineers to build devices. And collaborating with conventional conservation organizations brings problems, too. Often, he says, the missions don’t align: many are focused on creating preserves instead of on specific human factors that might be driving extinction, such as the economics of animal trafficking.
Still, Dehgan sees ample opportunity to make progress. “Humans have caused these problems,” he says. “And we have the ability to solve them.” www.conservationxlabs.com
Katherine Kane is an avid writer, conservationist, reader, tech geek and researcher. She has been writing technology articles and conservation success stories since 2016 and enjoys rescuing animals and gardening. You may reach Kate at [email protected]