Today’s conservation challenges are increasingly complex. Many species face unrelenting pressures from poaching, human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, climate change and other threats as they increasingly compete for space and resources with growing human populations.
The numbers are staggering: 73 million sharks are estimated to be killed each year for their fins. Wild tiger populations have plummeted by 97% in the last century to just 3,200. Global demand for ivory has tripled since 1998, and an estimated 30,000 elephants were poached in Africa for their ivory last year. The total number of rhinos killed in South Africa in 2014 alone was over 1,200—up from just 13 in 2007.
In many parts of the world, fundamental constraints, such as the lack of connectivity and the lack of access to capital, limit the uptake of technologies that could provide benefits to people and wildlife. Elsewhere, communities and wild places are able to leap-frog decades of developments in technology. While innovative engineering solutions are helping to bridge gaps, they are also introducing new challenges.
The selection of technologies to address specific challenges in conservation requires access to information on lessons learned. Peer-reviewed publications and media articles share discrete information on the application of technologies in anti-poaching, wildlife trade monitoring, remote sensing, and other activities. But current information is often siloed in non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector. Access to a community of advisors is essential to enable conservation practitioners to make informed decisions about technology tools that can accelerate conservation successes.
A significant challenge that the conservation community faces is scaling appropriate technology tools so that they are affordable and available to global users. Even scalable tools must be adapted to specific social and environmental conditions, and require local buy-in and ownership. Collaborations across the public and private sectors are essential to ensure transparent, fair and effective integration of technology-enabled solutions.