Coding for wildlife

by ZSL on

The impact of the illegal wildlife trade has reached unprecedented levels. With the help of coders, creatives and subject matter experts, we're working to develop solutions to reduce demand for wildlife products in the Zoohackathon.

Last year's winning team share their experience ahead of this year's event on 6th - 8th October.   

Zoohackathon team Lookout
Team Lookout with event organisers at the Zoohackathon 2016

Last October, scientists, engineers, designers and coders gathered in zoos across the world to achieve a common goal, which was to educate travellers about the effects of illegal wildlife trafficking and how to avoid facilitating the notorious trade.

Our project Lookout was the winning idea for the 2016 London Zoohackathon at ZSL London Zoo, which aimed to get major global airlines to expose travellers to educational messages tailored to the traveller’s destination, throughout the booking process and other key touchpoints of a traveller’s journey.

Since October, we have been helped tremendously in terms of project publicity and promotion by the Conservation Technology Unit at ZSL London Zoo. In addition to this, we are currently working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and are in the early stages of developing a pilot project for a major route with the American airline JetBlue.

We all heard about the Zoohackathon from a variety of sources such as word-of-mouth or social media. The first induction evening aimed to establish groups from mission statements, which would go on to be interpreted in a huge diversity of ways.

The Zoohackathon was not only an event to bring the right people together, it was also a highly educational event, inspiring us all to make a change, and to encourage creativity to find a solution. We were all given access to large wildlife databases from ZSL which we were allowed to use for all our different projects, as well as having the freedom to wonder round the Zoo for user research prior to project planning.

Lookout coder Glyn expressed that ‘education has always been important to me, so the opportunity to develop a new platform to inform tourists about the illegal animal trade was extremely exciting’. Billie, a designer and engineer from team Lookout also said that ‘it has made me more aware of what is going on in terms of wildlife protection and what is being done to combat the illegal wildlife trade. It also taught me how small projects with like-minded individuals can bring big ideas and solutions to complex, global issues’. 

The most encouraging part about the Zoohackathon is its ongoing relevance to current global issues; shortly after the 2016 hackathon, China announced that it would ban its ivory trade by the end of 2017.

The Zoohackathon was an incredible experience; a fun weekend at the zoo, an educational experience and a brief moment where we put wildlife at the forefront of global affairs. 

Find out more about the Zoohackathon 

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