Wildlife crime reporting app wins Zoohackathon

A new app aiming to bring the public and their mobile phones to the forefront of the fight against the illegal wildlife trade has won international backing at the US State Department’s inaugural 'Zoohackathon' competition. 

Black rhino in the Massai Mara, Kenya. Photo: Renaud Fulconis / Awely
Black rhino are often the victim of the illegal wildlife trade due to their horns
The contest saw coders come together at six zoos across the globe last month to design technological solutions for some of the greatest challenges facing conservation today. 

Following the weekend of coding, a project aiming to get the public involved with the fight against illegal wildlife trade via their own mobile phones has scooped top prize. 

Wildtrack, a team of coders who developed the winning solution at the San Diego Zoohackathon, will now have the opportunity to work with conservation technology experts from ZSL and partners to turn their concept into a reality. 

Their app will enable anyone around the world to anonymously report suspected wildlife crime incidents via a simple text message to an automated system, and will be integrated with existing conservation software, SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Report Tool), allowing real-time data analysis to help those responsible for managing protected areas to track and predict critical issues such as poaching and wildlife trafficking. 

As part of the Zoohackathon win, a total prize fund of USD $35,000 will be provided to support the further development of Wildtrack’s app by ZSL and other experts from the SMART partnership.

Bushmeat on truck in Equatorial Guinea_Janna Rist ZSL
The app could be used to report wildlife crime such as this illegal bushmeat
Julien Godfrey, SMART specialist from ZSL’s conservation team said: “From the Gir Forest of India to the jungles of Cameroon, SMART has already transformed conservation in 31 countries, across flagship species including elephants and tigers.

“Until now there has been no way to add data provided by the general public to the database, which has meant we’ve missed out on important and useful information from those witnessing incidents first-hand. Wildtrack’s winning app has the potential to change all that and we’re really excited to be working with their team to fulfil this technology’s full potential.”

Conceived by the US State Department to engage the brightest talent around in developing tech-based solutions to the illegal wildlife trade, Zoohackathon events took place simultaneously on 7-8 October 2016 in London, San Diego, Seattle, St Louis, Sydney and Washington DC.

The final shortlist of six finalists included three apps developed at the session hosted at ZSL London Zoo, including the London winner, Lookout.  

Sophie Maxwell, who leads ZSL’s Conservation Technology Unit, said: “It was an honour to be part of such an exciting weekend of creativity and international collaboration. 

“Wildtrack’s winning idea takes an innovative approach in targeting low tech feature phones to provide a “locally” viable solution and it’s compatibility with SMART only increases the potential for this idea to contribute to the future protection of wildlife worldwide.”

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