Creative coders needed to stop wildlife trafficking

Zoo hackathon at ZSL London Zoo

Coders, creatives and conservationists are being called to ZSL London Zoo this October to combine their technological prowess and tackle the growing crisis of the illegal wildlife trade, at the second annual international Zoohackathon event.

Organised by the U.S. Department of State and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and launched in 2016, the Zoohackathon is an international computer coding and technology event that brings together technical gurus, conservation experts and designers to create tools to combat one of the greatest threats facing wildlife today – the illegal wildlife trade.

For this year’s London event, taking place from 6-8 October, international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) is partnering with U.S. Embassy London and Bloomberg for a weekend of technological creativity and innovative thinking.

Teams will work to solve a series of challenge statements focused on curbing illegal wildlife trafficking, authored by world-leading wildlife experts. Under the guidance of ZSL’s pioneering Conservation Technology Unit (CTU), U.S. Embassy officers and experts in law enforcement and wildlife crime, teams will have 48 hours to develop a technical solution to help prevent of some of the world’s best-loved species being pushed to the brink of extinction. 

Matthew Hatchwell, Director of Conservation at ZSL, said: “The threat of the illegal wildlife trade has reached unprecedented levels and is devastating some of the world’s most iconic species, from elephants and rhinos to pangolins and grey parrots.

“Technology has in many ways fuelled the expansion of this illicit industry, so it’s vital that we stay at the forefront of technological development to confront the issue head on. The Zoohackathon is a great opportunity to bring together some of the brightest technological and industry specialists to tackle this challenge.”

All participants are in with the chance of winning an exclusive ZSL London Zoo experience as well as mentorship to develop and implement their project with Stephanie Jowers, Advisor for the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, alongside ZSL’s conservationists. Winners will be announced on the final day of the event, Sunday 8 October.

Sophie Maxwell, head of ZSL’s CTU, said: “We saw some phenomenal ideas generated at the 2016 event, from ways to educate travellers 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 a simple text message – a technology that we’re now helping to make a reality and implement in the field. We can’t wait to see what comes out of this year’s event.”

Following on from events in Chicago and San Diego at the end of September, the London event will coincide with the New Delhi Zoohackathon, and the international winner will be decided later in the year.

Mahvash Siddiqui, the U.S. Embassy London's science and technology officer and lead co-coordinator of the Zoohackathon said: "The Zoohackathon is the most effective collaboration between technologists, wildlife experts, governments and law enforcement that helps create game changing solutions to combat the multi-billion dollar illegal trade in wildlife products." 

For more information on the Zoohackathon, and to sign up, visit www.zoohackathon.com.

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