Computer games are often blamed for taking people away from nature, but can their power be harnessed for conservation? Games data analyst and passionate conservationist Raff Mares thinks they can.

Want to hear more from Internet of Elephants? Raff's colleague Gautam Shah participated in a live Q&A about how we can innovate for conservation at 8pm on Wednesday 31 March.

Rafael Mares

Raff has always been fascinated by how animals move in their environment and has been lucky to study this from ocelots to meerkats, across the rainforest and desert. He studied Biology in Panama – his country of birth – where he developed his love of being in the field, tracking ocelots on a forested island in the Panama Canal. He then worked in the Peruvian Amazon tracking white-lipped peccaries, before pursuing his PhD studies on meerkat dispersal and cooperation in the South African Kalahari Desert.

Over the 12 years studying how animal movement is influenced by social and environmental factors, he became fascinated by the technological advances being used to gain insights on animal behaviour and ecology. He also realised how important it is for these findings to be made accessible not just to other researchers but to all. While he still is fortunate to observe animals in the wild – orangutans in Indonesia and gorillas in the Republic of Congo – his focus has shifted from collecting wildlife data himself, to collating the experiences and data of other researchers. It is ultimately the stories arising from these experiences and data that are at the core of the games and visualisations created by Internet of Elephants, and what they believe will inspire a wide audience and engage them in wildlife conservation.

His reason for optimism is: “We need to focus people’s attention on the importance of wildlife and habitat conservation: what better way to do this than to use powerful platforms like games to make this fun, exciting and interesting, as well as worthwhile?”

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