Yoti is arguing that digital identity technology can help advance wildlife conservation efforts. The company’s latest blog post focuses specifically on the Southern ground hornbill in Zimbabwe, and is in keeping with Yoti’s ongoing support for various ethically-minded causes.
In this instance, the Southern ground hornbill is a large black bird that spends most of its time on the ground. The hornbill is native to the African savanna, and lays its eggs in hollow trees dotted throughout the land.
The problem is that the hornbills’ natural habitat (and its population) are eroding, to the point that the species is now classified as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Some of that is the result of human development. The government of Zimbabwe has pushed Agrarian Land Reform policies that encourage people to cultivate new lands. Those settlers are cutting down trees for farming and for firewood, leaving many hornbills without a safe place to lay their eggs.
Some hornbills are also killed through direct human interference. The birds are hunted for food, and to collect parts that are used in many traditional medicines in Zimbabwe. That creates an even bigger challenge for conservationists, since it means that there are many people who would rather hunt hornbills for profit than assist with their conservation.
That’s where digital identity technology can come into play. Organizations like BirdLife Zimbabwe are trying to track hornbill populations and territory, but the sheer scope of the savanna makes the task virtually impossible with limited funding. With that in mind, BirdLife Zimbabwe is trying to enlist the help of local volunteers to report any hornbill sightings.
Digital identity technology can ensure that those volunteers’ intentions are pure, and that they will not share their information with poachers. BirdLife Zimbabwe can vet volunteers through online or in-person interviews, and issue digital IDs to volunteers to give them access to an online community where people could share hornbill sightings knowing that the other people in the group will not pass that information on to people with ill intent.
The IDs would include names, addresses, and facial biometrics to make sure that each identity is legitimate. Reports could also take behavioral and location data into account, since most group members would report sightings near their homes.
Yoti asked developers to pitch ideas for an online forum as part of its African Conservation Challenge in 2021. The company also runs a Fellowship Programme that provides funding for grassroots identity projects all over the world.
January 18, 2022 – by Eric Weiss