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END LOOP: Coding to end wildlife trafficking

  • The first ever Zoohackathon will convene this October 7-9 across six zoos in the US, Europe, Asia and Pacific.
  • The hackathon aims to produce tech solutions to the increasingly rampant global challenge of wildlife trafficking.
  • Visit www.zoohackathon.com to register or contact schulzedf@state.gov or Zoohackathon@state.gov for more information on getting involved.

What’s coding got to do with conservation?

The first ever Zoohackathon will convene this October 7-9 across six zoos in the US, Europe, Asia and Pacific. Organized by the US Department of State, Association of Zoos and Aquariums and World Wildlife Fund, the hackathon will address the increasingly rampant global challenge of wildlife trafficking.

“The idea is simple: bright coding minds will spend a weekend at local zoos,” said US Undersecretary of State Catherine Novelli, officially launching the initiative on this year’s World Wildlife Day.  “There, they’ll consider problems submitted by our partner NGOs and field-professionals and develop tech solutions to address these challenges.”

Confiscated wildlife products at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand.

Spurred by demand for traditional medicine, delicacies, decorations, accessories and exotic pets, wildlife trafficking has driven species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, turtles and pangolins to critical threatened status. With destination markets and transit routes spanning most of the world, the trade feeds into a broader consolidated network of organized crime encompassing gun, drug and human trafficking. The US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance hopes the Zoohackathon will help further the National Strategy on Combating Wildlife Trafficking’s objectives by identifying potential technological solutions to increase awareness, improve attitudes, inform choices and reduce demand. The event also aims to reinvigorate and expand the discussion to new audiences worldwide.

Participants will include teams of wildlife experts, coders, tech geeks, NGOs and designers who’ll pitch their ideas to an expert judging panel and compete for prizes locally. Winners from each site can vie for a global prize too. Conservation tech leaders will guide promising groups in turning their solutions into market-ready products.

WikiMedia Hackathon in Amsterdam, 2013. Photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg.

Visit www.zoohackathon.com to register for the London, San Diego, Seattle, Sydney and DC sites. They are currently accepting problem statements.

For more information or to get involved by mentoring, connecting with coders and experts, giving providing financial support, judging, volunteering or aiding the publicity effort, email the Zoohackathon Coordinator at the US Department of State, DeMark Schulze (schulzedf@state.gov), or Zoohackathon@state.gov.