Wild online: why digital conservation matters today

Learn about how wildlife and conservation efforts benefit from a digital platform with Courtney Dunn

Glose-up of a gorilla hand with a Toronto Zoo volunteer in the corner giving an expert talk, straight from the Zoolife.tv livestream of the Toronto Zoo gorilla habitat.
A snapshot from a talk by one of the Toronto Zoo volunteers, using camera controls to zoom in on the Gorillas hands as she shares relevant information

Why do digital platforms matter?

In today’s world of conservation and wildlife, communication is extremely important in digital platforms. Whether it’s for fundraising, connection or education, social media and streaming platforms have taken center stage. They help audiences connect with endangered animals in ways nobody had expected before. Most importantly, accessibility to education of subjects such as wildlife conservation and zoology has become much more common with these platforms. They provide a cost-friendly and convenient way to connect with professionals and wildlife with ease.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become critical in promoting awareness campaigns. They bring attention to critical conservation issues such as species endangerment. The Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research states even zoological and conservation organizations use social media to announce events. They announce births and hatchings, as well as promote subjects such as biology, zoology and ecology with education in mind. Both individuals and organizations strive to connect audiences with conservation efforts and education. They use digital platforms to strengthen their subjects and to engage with their audiences in new interactive mediums.

How one zoologist used digital platforms for better

Courtney Dunn first got their start in zoology at an internship at the Memphis Zoo. Before working at other institutions like the Dallas Zoo and the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park. And, now working as the Product Operations Manager at Zoolife.tv and wildlife educator under the pseudonym, “Dr. Wildlife.” With a following of over 26,000 people on Twitter and 2,500 followers on Twitch, Dr. Wildlife has spent the past 5 years educating their audience on wildlife topics and conservation efforts using digital platforms to connect with audiences far and wide. Their topics range from glimpses into the world of big cats, to legal issues present in endangered species protection. Don’t forget about fun facts about rare animals!

One key goal Dr. Wildlife has in mind while engaging with their audience is maintaining a balance of education and entertainment in a meaningful and unique manner. “People really like good photos and videos, people like to see things in action…” They said, “Plenty of accounts on Twitter share the videos and photos, but don’t provide the education aspect! These animals not only look amazing, they DO amazing things!”

Dr. Wildlife’s topics have been developed to make sure nothing is overcomplicated or inaccessible to those outside of the science community: digestible content is key. “I don’t believe traditional science communications – such as lectures or classes – are meeting the bar anymore,” Dr. Wildlife explained. “We wouldn’t have all the problems we have in the world today if [wildlife and conservation] education was made more accessible.” 

The streams on Twitch consist of a weekly zoology class taught completely for free, lifted up from the curriculum they taught at the University of Central Arkansas and University of Texas at Arlington. For social media, Dr. Wildlife leans on resharing content they find from fellow wildlife enthusiasts or institutions. “I look into researching the animals and finding fun facts about them before releasing that batch of posts over them,” Dr. Wildlife said. “I like to provide people with a continuous stream of what we have in our community.” 

One of the most important aspects of digital platforms is the accessibility they give to lesser engaged audiences of the science community, something Dr. Wildlife has played into. “The kind of audiences that get left out by the science community are those who aren’t engaged to something like the Discovery Channel or the big science conferences,” they explained. “So, I started looking into niche fandoms like sci-fi and furries that have interest in wildlife and science! I taught a zoology class from start to finish in my Dr. Wildlife costume and it got a lot of attention for being so different… I got to share my day-to-day zookeeper snapshots with a new crowd.” 

An educational talk on Zoolife.tv, an example of using new digital formats to spread awareness about wildlife conservation in an interactive manner

How Zoolife.tv works for digital conservation

For Dr. Wildlife, promoting wildlife education and conservation awareness at panels like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conference or Furnal Equinox comes not only from the social media platforms they’ve embraced, but Zoolife.tv, the world’s first virtual zoo. “It’s a big part of my presentations now: people love to see animals in action,” Dr. Wildlife explained. “Tuning in to the leopard cams is so useful to talk about their behavior than showing them a documentary because Zoolife is live and unfiltered. As Zoolife adds a wider range of species types like reptiles, it gives me a wider range of topics to talk about!”

For zoologists and digital streamers like Dr. Wildlife, Zoolife provides them with a never-before-seen glimpse into wildlife’s lives. With the help of animal conservations, their audiences have a chance to support conservation by purchasing passes. Zoolife’s wildlife conservation partnerships are also rooted in finding the most effective and ethical wildlife institution. This guarantees that the habitats we show help promote genuine conservation and give back to the animals.

Each habitat has a zookeeper talk hosted for them weekly. They have a live and interactive chat with viewers. Zookeeperscan answer questions, tell stories and educate their audience on their favorite animals. Some habitats also feature a feeding time spotlight. Viewers can get a firsthand look at how each animal is fed at their zoo or sanctuary.

As a virtual zoo that values conservation and engagement, we strive to include as many resources as we can for both education and entertainment. With over 25 habitats and dozens of zookeeper talks hosted weekly, viewers and educators alike will find something to enjoy on Zoolife.tv. To learn more about what we offer and catch a glimpse of the unfiltered and uncurated world of wildlife, visit Zoolife.tv!

As Dr. Wildlife explained, “Finding a good balance between entertainment and education helps make science a lot more engaging AND accessible.” Science doesn’t have to be complicated to inspire people!”

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