You are stopped at a checkpoint and held there unless you pay a bribe. Would you pay?
This is a dilemma that some conservationists face. Conservation Crisis – a board game and app that allows you to learn about conservation while also raising funds for charities – provides you with an opportunity to step into the shoes of a conservationist and think about these questions.
In addition to having to avoid corruption, players must race against time to hire rangers to stop poachers hunting wildlife for the illegal wildlife trade, build wildlife fences to stop human-wildlife conflict, and build tourist lodges to generate funds for their conservation work.
So much conservation messaging is rather depressing. We wanted to make something that was not only more positive, but also more fun. It’s far too easy to get locked into being very serious about serious situations, but it’s important to be able to take a step back and give yourself a break and a chance to enjoy yourself. Indeed, mental health researchers have highlighted the importance of play for those working on cause-driven projects.
We also found so many people didn’t actually know what was involved in real-life conservation – they think you just employ rangers and that was that – so we decided to create a game that puts people in charge of a wildlife reserve and they have to save a species, just like a conservationist would in real life.
Our idea was to create a game that was therefore fun to play and had all the joys and frustrations of games we had grown up with, while also testing your own conservation skills in a gaming environment and sending an optimistic message that conservation works and can save species if you have the right strategy and funding. Thus, we created Conservation Crisis.
We launched the game through our Social Enterprise, Tunza Games. Tunza means ‘we care’ in Swahili, and our mission is to use educational and fun games to raise funds and awareness for conservation charities.
As part of that mission we’ve tried to make the game as accessible as possible for education organisations and people, so the app can be played for free on desktop computers. We also have a selection of classroom resources, which are all free to download if you contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. So start playing!
To raise funds for charity, we have an app for sale on both iOS and Android as well as a board game on Amazon. Pro-tip: you can save 25% on the board game with the code ‘WeCare2020’ during the lockdown. The price of the apps and board game includes a donation to our four partner charities: the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Tusk, The Pole Pole Foundation, and CCG Trust – Investors in Wildlife, and you can find out more on this on our website.
None of us have enough money to donate to all the causes we want to support. Whenever I’m speaking at a conservation event I always ask if anyone in the room has spent £100 or more on products that protect wildlife, such as orangutan-friendly coffee. To date only three people have raised their hands.
One way to raise funds is to sell products that people want to buy and use the revenues to finance conservation. For example, if everyone in the UK who watched the most recent Planet Earth series bought just one £2 cup of wildlife-friendly coffee per week on average for a year, it would generate over £1.2 billion, equivalent to a quarter of a century of WWF UK’s income.
If we can make ethical products that raise funds, we make it much easier to fill the funding gap conservation faces, and we make it much simpler for people to make their spending do good, as opposed to the harm it often does today.
We think that is a big reason for Conservation Optimism: imagine if every time you spend money it helps to save wildlife, what a great world that would be!