Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge: Protecting songbirds with the power of citizen science

Welcome to an installment of a new series from the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge in which we will be sharing updates from their 16 Prize Winners who are working to combat wildlife crime around the globe. 

This fourth spotlight features prize winner Planet Indonesia, Collecting data about animals sold in illegal wildlife markets can be difficult and dangerous. Planet Indonesia is developing a mobile app that allows users to inconspicuously collect data in bird markets and transmit it to a secure, collaborative database.

Date published: 2017/08/17

More than 800,000 native songbirds are trapped and traded in Indonesia each year. Prize Winner and conservation non-profit Planet Indonesia’s executive director Adam Miller explains: “On the [Indonesian] island of Java, for example, in order to become a man you have to own five things: a horse, a house, a wife, a dagger, and a songbird.” Miller estimates that 22% of the people on Java own songbirds. With about 150 million people on the island, that number adds up.

Planet Indonesia has identified about 25 native bird species that are almost or already extinct as a result of poaching and the illegal trade in wild birds. In response, they are developing a smartphone app to address the problem. The idea arose when Miller noticed Planet Indonesia staff collecting data in the field using their smartphones to take notes, and wondered if an app might make their jobs easier while raising awareness about the impacts of the illegal bird trade. “We started talking about it, and at the same time, the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge was announced, so it seemed like a perfect fit,” says Miller.

Planet Indonesia has three goals for their app: reduce consumer demand for birds, increase data collection, and work with law enforcement. To that end, they are building an app that engages users in what Miller describes as a “game-like data collection process.” The app will encourage users to collect data on birds in wildlife markets and compete with other users to collect the most data on critical bird species, with top-scorers winning cell phone minutes as incentives. Planet Indonesia will use the data to work with the Indonesian government to better protect songbirds and increase enforcement of wildlife protection laws.

Collecting data about animals sold in illegal wildlife markets can be difficult and dangerous. Challenge Prize Winner Planet Indonesia is developing a mobile app that allows users to inconspicuously collect data in bird markets and transmit it to a secure, collaborative database.

Find out more: http://bit.ly/2hPgV6w

All of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge Prize Winners, including Planet Indonesia, are looking for partners, organizations, individuals, and funding agencies that can help them scale their solutions. If you would like more information, please get in touch at info@wildlifecrimetech.org

Interested in apps for conservation? Join our Software and Mobile Apps community group and help develop tools like Planet Indonesia's Suara Burung smartphone app.