SCB Organizational Member Spotlight: On the Edge Conservation

Spotlight on our Organizational Member On the Edge Conservation. Hear about what EDGE species are, how they use digital channels to employ modern day storytelling, their app Kakapo Run, and so much more!

On the EDGE Conservation is a relatively new organization. Could you tell us about what your goals are?

At On the EDGE Conservation we promote biodiversity through the unheard voices and untold stories of nature’s most Evolutionarily Distinct, Globally Endangered species, those are both as ambassadors for the diversity of life and to change the narrative for nature. We hope to get biodiversity beyond a niche interest and into popular culture. We do this by employing modern storytelling techniques alongside rigorous social science We also recognize the important of having a locally led conservation movement and so we support local organizations around the world doing exceptional work to conserve EDGE species on the ground. Finally we invest in growing our scientific knowledge of the natural world and using this to influence policy both here in the UK and globally, for example though hosting the IUCN SSC Phylogenetic Diversity Task Force, and in engaging with the Convention on Biological Diversity’s development of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Can you tell us a little bit about EDGE species, and why we should be focused on protecting them?

Protecting EDGE species provides a unique opportunity to more effectively conserve the breadth of diversity of life on Earth. All EDGE species are threatened with extinction, with 20% being classified as Critically Endangered. Nine out of ten priority EDGE species are today receiving insufficient conservation attention, typically because we focus on relatively few better-known species. Our innate preference for charismatic animals results in many less attractive species being overlooked by all-the public, conservationists, scientists and policy-makers. This bias in conservation choices results in both the inequitable treatment of species and the interests of future generations. EDGE priority lists include not only these little-known species, but also unique better-known species such as the panda, elephants, and koalas, showing that this approach complements existing conservation efforts.

How are you currently using digital channels to employ modern day storytelling and promote biodiversity?

Beyond this, I have to highlight our YouTube Channel (you can find it at “On the EDGE”) which features the vlog’s of not one, not two, but three EDGE species: Eric, the pangolin, Lexi, the aye-aye and Tegan the kakapo. There you can follow their everyday adventures as they go about their lives across London. I highly recommend it!

Our goal is to turn Eric, Lexi and Tegan into media influencers, with their own Instagram profiles in addition to YouTube content, but instead of product placement and advertising we will leverage their position to get biodiversity conservation, and in particular EDGE species, to be top of mind. We put out content several times a week, so there is always something new!

We have played (and enjoyed) the recently released Kakapo Run. What inspired you to create the game and what do you hope to accomplish with its release?

Really happy to hear you like Kakapo Run! Our goal was to design a game that was great fun but that had the power to influence knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of those that played it. In an experiment, we compared 100 people who played Kakapo Run with 100 people who played Subway Surfers, one of the world most popular mobile game. Our results showed not only that players knowledge increased while playing the game but also that they increasingly perceived their actions as having an impact on the environment and were more likely to volunteer for a conservation organization. These are very encouraging results and a first for a game focused on wildlife conservation.

Are you working on any exciting, new programs?

Of course! If you liked Kakapo Run, you will be happy to hear that we are currently working on an update to the game that will give players a bunch of new features that past players have requested. So stay tuned!

We are also about to launch a project where we will be harnessing the power of the internet and machine learning to gather insights about people's relationship with wildlife, in real time and in global scale. We hope this work will allows us to better document how relationships with nature in unprecedented detail.

At SCB, we recognize the importance of celebrating and learning from conservation success stories. Do you have a recent conservation optimism story you could share with us?

We were recently delighted to hear that our grantee Australian Wildlife Conservancy released the first five of 50 numbats, an insectivorous marsupial endemic to Australia, into Mallee Cliffs National Park. We support their project to reintroduce numbats to predator-free areas in Australia, where they have been extirpated from >99% of their former range. It is heartwarming to hear that this unique species, of which there are less than 1000 individuals remaining in the wild, will get a little help to avoid extinction.