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Zoological Society of London

21 April 2022

Augmented Reality experience launches at London Zoo where planting virtual trees supports real-life tree planting campaign for conservation.

An interactive, Augmented Reality app where users “plant” a virtual tree that translates to a real tree being planted is being launched in the UK on Earth Day (22 April 2022), with a unique AR marker tile unveiled exclusively at London Zoo. 
ZSL, the international conservation charity behind the world-famous zoo, has teamed up with the EIWAZ TREE OF LIFE creator Martine Jarlgaard to plant 140,000 mangrove trees in the Philippines – a feat made possible simply by users planting a virtual tree as part of the augmented reality art experience.

EIWAZ TREE OF LIFE originator Martine Jarlgaard has been described as a “technology pioneer” by Forbes and Fast Company. An artist, innovator, metaverse strategist and a public speaker who works with cutting edge technologies and ideas to challenge the way we think and behave, Jarlgaard aims to use the power of art, immersive technologies and nature to “mobilise humanity in a battle for nature”. 
App users “plant” a striking-looking tree, a reference to the mythological Nordic Tree of Life ‘Eiwaz’, which then “catches fire” and needs saving before a new virtual seed can emerge and be cultivated to grow up from the ground. Once the process is completed, a real tree is planted – made possible by the Bestseller Foundation.  
Described by Jarlgaard as “an immersive art activism experience and a global movement to save the planet”, the Augmented Reality experience is designed to make users think about the increasing lack of nature in our lives, and the role we can all play in helping nature to thrive. Once users have successfully nurtured EIWAZ TREE OF LIFE they are given information about the real-life tree that will be planted, including its GPS location, carbon absorption and biodiversity impact. 

ZSL Director of Conservation and Policy, Dr Andrew Terry said: “As the world becomes increasingly alive to the interconnected threats of biodiversity loss and climate change, the world must adopt nature-based solutions to help tackle these twin crises – an approach ZSL is embracing. These solutions, which restore, protect or sustainably manage ecosystems are low risk and low cost but deliver huge impact.  

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“ZSL is working with local partners on one such project in the Philippines to restore mangrove forests. True ecosystem heroes, mangroves provide vital services to coastal communities such as flood defence; they are essential for wildlife, acting as nursery grounds for many fish species and, they are extremely efficient at locking carbon into the ground – but in recent history we have lost many mangrove forests. 

“Every player of the EIWAZ TREE OF LIFE will help ZSL to restore 140,000 more mangrove trees in the Philippines.”  
With only two other AR markers on public display around the world - the first is in Copenhagen’s Ofelia Square in partnership with the Royal Danish Theatre and the second previously at the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai - London Zoo is the first venue in the UK to host a marker, which will enable zoo visitors to instantly launch the app and plant a virtual tree surrounded by some of nature’s most amazing wildlife. 
App creator Martine Jarlgaard said: “By visualising and gamifying one of today’s greatest challenges through art and immersive technology we can engage and empower the audience while creating an actual, real-life impact through reforestation and the preservation of nature. The climate emergency was a reality before Covid-19 and it still is.” 
EIWAZ TREE OF LIFE tile will be on display at London Zoo for a limited time only, from Friday 22 April 2022 until Friday 30 September 2022.  The app is free to download on android and IOS operating systems. The portal tile is not needed to operate the app once downloaded, and the virtual trees can be “planted” anywhere from your local park to your local town centre.  

Conservation technology ZSL

At ZSL we are working to develop and apply innovative technology to enhance the work of our conservationists and scientists.