Can video games make people care about wildlife conservation?

This former IT consultant combines technology with his passion for nature to protect animals—virtually.

Gautam Shah had spent 20 years working in IT—and his whole life caring about nature. He saw advances in conservation that got mentioned only in science journals, “but the story lines within that data are amazing; they’re fascinating,” Shah says. “They’re absolutely things that can engage an audience.”

Eager to use his techie skills for wildlife conservation, Shah—a National Geographic explorer—founded a game company called Internet of Elephants in 2016. The Kenya-based start-up designs digital experiences to tell real conservation stories based on real data.

One example: Wildeverse, an augmented reality mobile app like Pokemon Go, launched in April 2020. In the game, players can “track” apes by collecting environmental samples such as fruit and scat. Rather than putting lots of high-tech tricks in a game, Shah says, the company prioritizes telling a compelling, true story through whatever technology is best suited to it.

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