Forging Tech Collaborations

Zoohackathon 2017

Tackling the biggest conservation challenges facing our planet requires innovation, focus, and collaboration. ZSL’s Conservation Technology Unit (CTU) brings together business leaders, conservationists, corporations, tech start-ups, academics, engineers, communities, and impact investors, bridging the gap to create game-changing conservation technology solutions.

ZSL provides a suite of collaboration-building initiatives - from ‘meet-up’ workshops and hackathons, to incubator programs and ongoing support for community platforms such as United for Wildlife’s These activities help source big ideas to solve big challenges, bringing together top talent from leading technology corporations and academic institutions to apply their skills (guided by ZSL) and ensure successful implementation in the field.

Team Lookout working at Zoohackathon

ZSL’s CTU and Institute of Zoology provide a collaborative technology laboratory on ZSL premises. This space offers a place for conservation technology initiatives to flourish, where scientists, technologists and engineers can gather to co-design and co-develop new technologies to meet current challenges. Crucially, we see a future where technologies are cheaper, and we are actively exploring how to bring the cost of technology down to a suitable price-point for limited budgets. One such collaboration is our project with the Arribada Initiative to develop low-cost sea turtle tags on the island of Principe.

We also run a flagship annual collaboration event called Zoohackathon. Organized by ZSL in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and launched in 2016, the Zoohackathon is an annual international computer coding and technology event. It brings together technical gurus, conservation experts and designers to create tools to combat some of the greatest threats facing wildlife today.

In 2017, our partner Bloomberg was proud to support Zoohackathon for a weekend of technological creativity and innovative thinking.  Experts from across the world helped over 100 coders create technology solutions within 48 hours to help prevent of some of the world’s best loved species being pushed to the brink of extinction. 

Each year we see phenomenal ideas generated by such advanced and talented teams, from ways to educate travelers about the perils of buying illegal wildlife products to solutions that enable those with even the simplest technology to report wildlife crime to rangers anonymously via text message.

ZSL has been working with the winning teams to help incubate and further their innovative solutions.


2017 International Winner  - ODINN

ODINN (Onsite Dynamic Identification Neural Network) aims to improve image recognition software so that it can be better used to identify poaching risks.

The solution triages incoming camera trap images, dramatically reducing the rangers’ time required to sift through large numbers of images. ODINN is an image recognition system that will flag the most critical poaching risks, and allow rangers to respond in real time.

ZSL and team ODINN are collaborating to develop their solution further, making it applicable to a variety of real-world conservation settings.

We’re using ODINN’s machine learning expertise to assess and understand cutting edge image recognition software being developed so we can select, repurpose, and redesign it to make the maximum conservation impact. 


2016 International Winner - SMARTSKOUT

SMARTSKOUT will enable anyone around the world to report suspected wildlife crime incidents via a simple text message.

There is currently no immediate way for local communities in protected areas to anonymously report critical poaching incidents, wildlife trafficking and details of human-wildlife conflict.

SMARTSKOUT’S SMS reporting system for communities will enable anyone to anonymously report suspected wildlife crime incidents via text messages in any language.  Rangers will be able to respond immediately to important information, and trafficking incidents will be fed into the broader information systems that governments around the globe use to analyse and disrupt the illegal wildlife trade supply chain.

What’s Next?

ZSL and partners will be running a host of collaboration events during 2018. If you are interested in participating, have an idea or a new bit of kit you think can make conservation impact we would love to hear from you. Please contact

Also look out for news about Zoohackathon 2018 which will be held in the autumn. For information about Zoohackathon please contact

Project Information

People Involved

  • Sophie Maxwell, Conservation Technology Lead
  • Rachel Kemp, Project Coordinator
  • Kate Moses, Project Assistant
  • Alasdair Davies, Arribada Initiative, Shuttleworth Fellow
  • Mahvash Siddiqui, US State Department

General enquiry:

Partners and Supporters

  • US State Department
  • Bloomberg