World Wildlife Day: Embrace Digital Technologies to Revolutionize Wildlife Conservation


Date of Issue: 3 March 2024

World Wildlife Day: Embrace Digital Technologies to Revolutionize Wildlife Conservation

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) stands in solidarity with the global community as we commemorate World Wildlife Day. As a premier natural resource’s governance organization, we acknowledge the immense value of wildlife, which extends from its role in maintaining ecological balance and preserving biodiversity to its significant contribution to the country’s economy.

World wildlife day 2024 arrives amidst a global digital revolution, dismantling barriers to people centred digital governance and providing equal opportunities for all to harness the potential of digital transformation in wildlife conservation. Running under the theme “Connecting People and Planet: Exploring Digital Innovation in Wildlife Conservation”, there is a growing focus on making wildlife conservation dynamic and oriented on integrating technological innovations to enhance efficiency and facilitate wildlife protection efforts.

Digital innovation is revolutionizing wildlife conservation efforts. Technologies such as species identification apps, camera traps, artificial intelligence and drones are increasingly being utilized for monitoring and protecting wildlife. Technology plays a critical role in aiding law enforcement efforts to disrupt criminal networks, providing valuable tools for dismantling wildlife crime and the broader illegal wildlife trade. Technology also plays a crucial role in fostering harmonious human and wildlife co-existence by enhancing mitigation.

ZELA remains at the fore front of enhancing wildlife conservation and complementing ongoing wildlife conservation interventions in Zimbabwe, by spearheading the development of digital innovations such as the Envirobot app and the Environmental crime and incidents tracker app. These pioneering digital tools serve as crucial platforms for disseminating wildlife information amongst stakeholders and act as centralized hubs for wildlife data.

It is imperative for wildlife conservation to prioritize a transition towards a digital approach, which has the potential to foster the development of technologies and services that support sustainable and legal wildlife trade as well as harmonious human-wildlife coexistence, all while considering the needs of future generations. The pivotal moment for wildlife conservation lies in not only recognizing the existing digital innovations but in also identifying and addressing any digital blind spots. Moreover, there is a need to further explore how digital solutions in wildlife conservation can be advanced to mitigate negative impacts for wildlife conservation effectively.

Exploring digital innovation in wildlife conservation offers a unique opportunity for intergenerational exchanges within wildlife conservation spaces. These exchange spaces serve as platforms to empower youths, who often possess greater technological proficiency, to take a leading role in driving the paradigm shift towards digital conservation solutions. As ZELA, we recognize the importance of engaging youth in this endeavour, which is why we established a dedicated youth network the “ZELA Youth Network”. Through this network we aim to empower young people and harness their potential to contribute significantly to wildlife conservation efforts.

To ensure that effective and efficient use of technology in wildlife conservation is a reality, the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association recommends the following strategies:

·     Digitalization of wildlife information and data for conservation purposes.

·    Policy Support: Advocacy for supportive policies and regulations that promote the use of technology in wildlife conservation, including incentives for technological innovations.

·    Technology integration: Integrate technological solutions such as species identification apps, artificial intelligence and drones into wildlife conservation efforts to enhance monitoring, data collection and enforcement capabilities.

·    Capacity building: Provide training and capacity building programs for stakeholders involved in wildlife conservation to ensure that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively utilize available technologies.

·      Research and development: Investing in research and development to explore innovative technologies and solutions tailored to the specific needs and challenges of wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe.

·       Public-Private Partnerships: Foster partnerships between government agencies, NGOs, private sector organizations, and academic institutions to leverage resources, expertise, and technology for wildlife conservation initiatives.

·    Data management and sharing: Developing standardized protocols for data management and sharing to ensure that valuable wildlife data collected through technology is accessible and utilized effectively by relevant stakeholders.

·    Community Engagement: Involving local communities in the design and implementation of technology-based conservation initiatives, ensuring that solutions are culturally appropriate, inclusive and address community needs and concerns.

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