HOW KEY CONSERVATION CAME TO BE
BY MEGAN CROMP, DIRECTOR
I started working on Key Conservation over 5 years ago when I was working on a sea turtle project in the Caribbean. Although this project usually had funding to cover what we needed they were times where we ran out of money or something happened that blew our budget completely and we were left scrambling to find funding. To fill those gaps during critical times we would try and sell t-shirts to tourists with our project's logo on them (you can imagine how awkward that can be when you need the money to save the animals you're working with but don't want to come across as desperate) but more likely than not we used our own small stipend that we got to buy our own food to help the sea turtles. During these moments I had this nagging feeling that there had to be a better way to reach out to people in real-time about what wildlife conservation projects were really facing.
I personally knew at least 20 people that would have helped during those critical times because sea turtles are one of their favorite animals and they would want to be right there with us working to help save them. After my time in the Caribbean I continued to work will many different animals all over the world and was always frustrated because every single one of the wildlife organizations (it didn't matter if they were a nonprofit, government or private) lacked either funding or support or both. But at the same time there were hundreds of thousands of people who loved these animals or habitats and wanted to do more to help save them. The problem was that they didn't even know where to begin to help. I started thinking more about bridging that gap and what that would look like.
I really decided to go for making a mobile app when I was working with a bird that was so critically endangered that it was actually extinct in the wild, the Alala also known as the Hawaiian crow. There were so few that they had to gather them all up and create a captive breeding program just to see if they could save them from being lost forever. I had the privilege of being able to help take care of them and there were days where it was just me and one of the birds and the sense of urgency was overwhelming. Even though they still had a long way to go before they would be safe again from extinction they were lucky because someone was doing something about it and they had the funding and the infrastructure to do it. Meanwhile there are thousands of animals out there right now slowly disappearing without anyone noticing or doing anything about it. Not because someone doesn't care but because we are in a perfect storm of funding being cut for science, we are in a mass extinction event and most people are tuning anything out that seems hopeless because they can't take anymore bad news they feel they can't do anything about. I wanted to build something that would empower the littlest of hope people still had and turn it into something that would make a true and real difference that they could actually see. I did a ton of research, talking to both wildlife professionals and supporters and moved forward with creating a scrolling LIVE Feed, kind of like Instagram, that showed what was happening in conservation in real-time all over the world. You see, a lot of smaller projects that are really struggling to stay afloat don't have the time or personnel to run large fund raising campaigns and we needed to make it easy for them to reach out and share. I knew I wanted a way for supporters to give money because it is crucial to the kind of work that can be done in the field but I wanted there to be more. That's where the Skilled Impact and In-Person features came in. I had people tell me "I'd love to help but I just don't have the money right now." I always said that no matter what you do for a living you could use it for conservation so I made it that people could give their professional skills to help. Something as simple as helping design an outreach campaign or fixing a car could mean thousands of dollars saved which could be the difference of a wildlife organization making it through that month or not. The In-Person feature idea came to me when we were doing a sea turtle release and we wanted to get the word out so people could see it. We posted it on Facebook but the chances of the right people in the right area seeing it were rare. Our In-Person feature would allow people to get push notifications about real-time opportunities in a selected range of their choosing. I also wanted this feature to automatically update as people traveled because how cool would it be to experience the work of a new wildlife organization while in a new place? Plus, this gave wildlife organizations a great platform to reach out for emergency in-person help during a critical time and to also reach new people who didn't even know their project existed.
At the end of the day I think we all want to know we are making a difference. That we are actually making the tide turn so that is why my favorite feature in the app is the updates. After you give your time or money to an organization and they use it they will send a video or photo feedback on what you helped save. My hope is that people will feel more connected to the work being done in these projects and that wildlife biologists feel that support. I know it sounds crazy but being a wildlife biologist can be really depressing. We are always worried about the animals we love going extinct and it can feel really lonely and hopeless somedays and the feedback from supporters can truly make a massive difference in not wanting to give up or not.
I'm gonna go full cheesy on you here and say I truly believe with all my heart that we can stop wildlife extinction if we pull together and never give up hope! I truly believe in this app and I hope you will join me in supporting our Indiegogo campaign below. It really is a numbers game when it comes to people seeing this campaign so if you can't give a lot now just know that even the littlest amount helps get our campaign on the front page of Indiegogo to reach thousands more! Don't forget to share the link and use our campaign hashtag #endendlings Thank you for reading all of this and your support! <3 https://igg.me/at/endextinction