Why innovation matters in conservation

Why innovation matters in conservation

#Act for the Wild, #Conservation, #Taronga Conservation Society Australia

Posted on 21st February 2020 by Media Relations

We are in the middle of the sixth great mass extinction. It is the first time in the Earth’s history that a planet-wide extinction event has been driven largely by human activity. Habitat destruction, illegal wildlife trade, the spread of invasive species and diseases, rapidly expanding global population and climate change are all leading to the rapid decline in plants and animals all around the world.

The most recent estimate is that globally over 1 million species are at risk of extinction.

The rapid loss of biodiversity is also being experienced in Australia, where we have one of the worst rates of mammal extinction in the world. The summer of catastrophic bushfires across many states that has burnt more than 10 million hectares of native vegetation has pushed our already vulnerable ecosystems to the brink. Over half of this amount has been lost in NSW alone. At current estimates, scientists believe that over 1 billion animals may have been lost to the bushfires. Many species such as the iconic Koala, the Glossy Black Cockatoo and the Mountain Pygmy-possum are now at even greater risk in the wild.  

Looking to the future

The next 10 years, according to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, will be critical if we are to turn the global tide on the loss of plants and animals. While conservation science can help define the problems and make us aware of the current challenges facing the planet, they often lack the resources to implement them on a large scale. This is particularly poignant when dealing with habitat and wildlife recovery after the devastating bushfires, efforts that are expected to take decades.

To help tackle this global and national biodiversity crisis, we need to ‘do’ conservation differently. With innovation driving change globally, could we utilise approaches from Silicon Valley to rapidly develop, prototype, implement and scale solutions that deliver positive outcomes for nature and local communities? The realms of artificial intelligence, machine learning and community conservation programs underpinned by blockchain technology may allow us the possibility to solve some of our most pressing environmental and conservation challenges.

We have started to see the invaluable contributions to conservation made by satellites and drones when it comes to monitoring vegetation and the movement of endangered animals. Similarly, we now have underwater autonomous vehicles helping scientists to unlock the mysteries of the deep oceans. Technology is also helping to open new markets in otherwise remote places, allowing communities to diversify their livelihoods.

The Beads for Wildlife program is a great example of this. The program allows women in Northern Kenya to sell their products half a world away through partners like Taronga. The income they earn through the sales helps to send children to school, buy food and clothes and invest in community development projects.

By leveraging innovation, we break down the traditional barriers to conservation by making it accessible for people who work in different sectors – such as IT, law or your local baker – to play a part in helping to preserve the natural world.

By bringing people with different skill sets and experiences together and creating a collaborative environment, will we be able to secure a shared future for wildlife and people.

Your ideas matter

It is with these challenges and vision in mind that Taronga has launched HATCH: Taronga Accelerator Program, to bring people with brilliant ideas together to help create a better future for our planet. At the end of the program, one finalist could receive up to $50,000 in funding to implement their game changing idea.

If you or someone you know has a brilliant idea for the planet, we would love to hear from you. Find out more at the HATCH: Taronga Accelerator Program webpage.