MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Now you can connect to some of the world’s most endangered animals one selfie at a time.
The social enterprise Internet of Elephants (IoE) wants to make conservation fun for anyone. So, they’ve come up with an app called Safari Central.
The app allows people to interact with Augmented Reality (AR) versions of various animals in the user’s own environment.
“It’s an app that allows you to use to connect to animals in the wild and we do this using Augmented Reality. So we have digital version of animals that are living currently in the wild and people can take photos with them and showing them to their friends and in the process get to know a little bit more about the species that we have included in our game at the moment,” said IoE’s data analyst Dr Rafael Mares.
Other animals on the app are an elephant, a grizzly bear, a jaguar, a black rhino and Madagascar’s Lemur.
“We chose the animals because we wanted to have a good mix of iconic species that everyone recognizes, and also few animals like the pangolin, which many people may not be familiar with but they are also at risk,” Mares added.
The pangolin, a small mammal covered in hard shell-like scales, has been hunted to near extinction. Found in Africa and Asia, their scales are used in traditional remedies for ailments such as asthma, rheumatism, and arthritis. They are also hunted for their meat.
The pangolin featured on the app lives in the Kalahari desert and is named “Rock Star”. It is currently under study by researchers from South Africa’s University of the Witswatersrand.
Rock Star is the most popular animal on Safari Central.
Researcher, Wendy Paniano seems to think its because of the animal’s personality.
“She is really a cool pangolin, she is shy, but once you introduce yourself slowly and you walk with her and you follow her, she comes out of her shell quite nicely and she doesn’t have a family that I know of yet, but hopefully, hopefully in the near future she will,” said Paniano.
The information gathered by Paniano and other researchers, like what they do at night and during the day goes into the app. Stories about the animals are part of the experience and developers are able to track how many times users click on the information tabs to learn more.
“It is an awareness tool that has incredible value for endangered protected species, and I think that is a key thing in terms of a feedback we are getting as awareness being generated via the app, and that is very important to us,” said Dylan Smith from Tswala Foundation which has partnered with IoE to make the research possible.
IoE is also planning to release a game version of the app this year that is similar to “Pokémon Go” – using wild animals. The game will use GPS data of animals’ movements sourced from researchers and Safari Central partners then challenge players to find them in their own city.
“The game itself will involve following animals in their own cities, so we take real animal data and transpose it onto any city in the world, and users can then follow these animals as if they were in the wild,” said Mares.
Research shows that 50 percent of the world’s wildlife has been lost in the past 40 years. IoE wants to get millions of people to the facts and contribute in their own way towards reversing the damage.