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The future of conservation, today?

Posted by Lee Barry Sep 1, 2015 Posted in Blogs

Picture this – you’re sitting in front of the TV when an alert pops up on screen; there’s been an incursion at one of the predator traps you’re monitoring. Instead of pulling on your boots and jacket you quickly swipe to pause Coronation Street and prepare to launch a drone. Later, as you settle back down, another alert pops up; the incursion is now dealt with. Sounds like science fiction? It could be closer than you might think.

In 2014 WWF launched New Zealand’s first ever Conservation Innovation Awards, with the tagline of finding ‘new ideas for nature’. The product category and $25,000 were awarded to TrapMinder, the brainchild of inventor Gian Badraun. TrapMinder is an automated trap monitoring system that could one day feature drones to remotely control predators in isolated locations, saving countless hours of leg work.

    

New Zealand conservation is currently at a turning point. Despite our best efforts nine out of 10 kiwi chicks born in the wild will not survive. This decline is not unique to kiwi. New Zealand species are among the most endangered in the world.  With our Department of Conservation woefully underfunded, the scale of the challenge is escalating. Voluntary groups are being asked to do more, yet funding and other support is not keeping pace. If we are to turn this around, we must work smarter; we need to innovate.

New Zealanders are known for doing just that. One such famous innovator was Timaru’s Colin Murdoch, a prolific inventor who produced over 40 patents before he died in 2008. 

Colin’s most important invention was the disposable hypodermic syringe, a revolution in healthcare. But he also had a passion for conservation, and while working to control wild goat and deer populations, he had the idea that the animals would be easier to handle if a dose of tranquillizer could be administered from a distance. The result was the tranquillizer dart, now a vital tool in wildlife conservation around the world.

Image of tranquilized rhino attended by wildlife conservation staff    

Colin’s ideas were not developed in isolation; he knew that for ideas to blossom, they must first be fostered through collaboration.

WWF’s 2015 Conservation Innovation Awards will seek to harness this very spirit of working together in the search for our next Gian Badraun or Colin Murdoch. For the first time, inventors, conservationists, inquiring minds and ideas people will be able to propose, critique and refine ideas in real time through this online ideas platform. It’s a 21st century way to answer our most pressing conservation problems, and might just be one small step towards a drone you can launch from the couch.

Get involved in the Conservation Innovation Awards – post your new idea for nature, or comment and vote to help others improve theirs.

This post was edited on Sep 4, 2015 by Lee Barry

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