A new conservation project asks us for images of rare species to put in a ‘digital zoo’. Why should you care?
This month we all have the chance to get involved in a unique project in the UAE. A competition to find the best film and photographic records of species across the UAE has been launched by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and international nature charity Wildscreen. And if your work turns out to be a winner it’ll take its place alongside contributions from thousands of the world’s finest filmmakers and photographers in a specially created digital vault.
The vault, called ARKive, is an online database of the world’s most endangered species, and so far boasts more than 36,000 films and photographs. Wildscreen’s Amy Nicholas tells Time Out that ARKive serves two purposes: ‘One is that we’re gathering media to put somewhere safe, so that when a species sadly has died out there’s a record for future generations.’ What’s the second? ‘We link our species profiles to conservation organisations that are working at a more grass-roots level,’ Nicholas explains. ‘So if you wanted to find out more about work that’s actually happening with a certain species we’ve got links there that will help you learn more.’
This makes ARKive a doubly important conservation project. It both encourages people to save species before it’s too late, and preserves those that seem unlikely to survive in a way that will allow future generations to fully appreciate them. ‘What we try to do with these visual records is show what the life of the species is like,’ says Nicholas. ‘So we show lots of different things, from birth to feeding and sleeping.’ Wildscreen maintains that visual records are key to encouraging an appreciation of just how important conservation is. ‘Imagery is so powerful, it has the ability to connect people to nature,’ says Nicholas. ‘So many people live in cities now and they’re so disconnected from nature. Having film and photographs really brings it to life for people. It helps switch people on to what’s out there and what species we need to conserve.’
Another important aspect of this ‘digital zoo’ is its online presence. Nicholas says that people from more than 160 countries around the world have visited ARKive, which means the message is spreading far and wide. ‘We get up to 30,000 visitors every day,’ she reveals. ‘That certainly wouldn’t happen if this was a museum where people had to physically come and visit the actual artefacts. So the digital side of it is really crucial.’
This is the first time that ARKive has staged a big appeal for amateur photographers and filmmakers. As species become rarer, the less likely it is that professionals will manage to capture their images. ‘We’re spreading the word to as many people as possible because that’s a more effective way of trying to find things,’ says Nicholas. It’s also a good way to make people feel involved. ‘If people have contributed to something they value it more,’ Nicholas agrees.
Although ARKive is a global project, the competition and Wildscreen’s partnership with the EAD will put the spotlight on local conservation work. The UAE is experiencing its own problems – the country’s rapid urbanisation has inevitably led to habitat losses and land degradation – but we have our successes, too. The Arabian oryx, once classified as ‘extinct in the wild’, has been re-introduced as part of an EAD project. A self-sustaining population now roams the dry deserts of Abu Dhabi. So if you want to help create some more success stories get snapping – the competition closes on August 28. To enter, email low resolution photographs to email@example.com. Videos can be uploaded to YouTube with a link sent to ARKive. Winners will be notified by email and announced on September 11. See the ARKive at www.arkive.org. For more info on EAD visit www.ead.ae/en