I've had the privilege of attending talks at the International Primatological Society's Congress in Hanoi, Vietnam this week, and one of the sessions I made sure to attend was on the applications of technology to primatology and conservation.
One of the particularly interesting presentations was, "The ApeApp and Tablet Advocacy: How Best to Inspire Conservation in Mobile Technology" by L. Darby, D. Cress, and J. Refisch. With so many people using mobile devices (more people have access to a mobile device than a working toilet, I learned during the talk), it's no surprise that conservation has spread to our smart phones.
The ApeApp was created by the Great Ape Survival Partnership or GRASP to teach people about the Great Apes (Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, and Gorillas) and to allow people to donate through their mobile phones to conservation causes. It's available for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices for free and was a finalist for the Appy Awards. The ApeApp creates a link between the public and 95 partners of GRASP, ranging from research institutions to conservation agencies to UN agencies. You can donate to the Diane Fossey Gorilla Foundation, the African Wildlife Foundation, and others. Except for the PayPal fee, all of your money goes towards the cause you chose. I think it's great that users can choose to donate say to habitat protection with the Orangutan Conservancy or Congo Shipping project with the African Wildlife Foundation.
You can also learn about these projects you donate to. For example, the Congo Shipping Project provides local communities with a boat to transport crops to cities so that they can sell them, whereas before this project, many people could not sell their crops and thus resorted to hunting apes. The project also trains communities in sustainable farming.
The ApeApp also teaches users about these apes, providing information on the average size and weight of each ape, species habitat, their population numbers and conservation status, subspecies, sleep patterns, vocalizations, and, my favorite, food. There's plenty to learn and it's easy to use.
I think this is a great example of how technology and conservation and mesh well together. Next time you're on your phone, instead of playing games or checking social networking sites, why not spend some time learning about our closest living relatives? Or better yet, donate to a cause you learned about on the ApeApp through the ApeApp itself.
Fun fact: Guess how many hours Americans spend on some sort of technology (computers, radio, tv, mobile phones, etc)?
Answer: 11 hours!