Minecraft gamers help raise awareness about wildlife poaching

A new contest being run by United for Wildlife is challenging Minecraft players to help build a conservation map that will raise awareness about wildlife poaching among the game’s huge community of over 100 million people.

We are the Rangers invites Minecraft modders to build a range of components for the map, from landscape features and structures to African animals (such as elephants, rhinos and giraffes), storyline elements and characters.

Examples of the building elements available

Examples of the building elements available

Players can build as many elements as they like, which should be submitted by 26 June 2015. The creators of the most interesting components will then be invited to join a ‘community build day’ in London the following month (either virtually or in person).

Once completed, the map will give players the opportunity to explore the landscape where, according to the website, “rangers battle…against the clock in a race against extinction.”

Gaming for good

Illegal wildlife trade is one of today’s most pressing threats to many species; however it is not commonly discussed outside conservation circles.

United for Wildlife is an alliance between seven of the world’s leading conservation organisations (including Fauna & Flora International), led by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Among other things, the alliance is committed to educating people about the threats to our planet’s biodiversity – particularly illegal wildlife trade.

Through initiatives such as We are the Rangers, United for Wildlife is helping to raise awareness about this critical issue among new audiences, many of whom are not often exposed to conservation messages.

This is not United for Wildlife’s first foray into the virtual world. In 2014, it worked with the developers of RuneScape to highlight the plight of rhinos among the game’s 220 million registered users, and with Angry Birds Friends to put pangolins in the spotlight.

Across the board, the gaming community has responded to these and other conservation-related challenges with enthusiasm – even helping to raise vital funds for conservation.

Examples of the animals available

Examples of the animals available

Virtual challenge meets real world challenges

We are the Rangers is a particularly apt title, as there has never been a more appropriate time to raise the profile of these wildlife protectors – particularly in Africa where illegal hunting has skyrocketed in recent years.

In South Africa, for example, the Department of Environmental Affairs estimates that rhino poaching alone has increased by 900% over the last five years in South Africa putting great pressure on the rangers tasked with protecting them.

Similar trends hold true across the continent, which is why Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is currently raising funds to equip, train and house Kenyan rangers, supporting them in their mission to prevent wildlife crime.

The determination of these brave men and women to protect their wildlife is clear to all who have the chance to meet them.

Meanwhile, the advent of gaming challenges like We are the Rangers will give more people than ever before the chance to learn about the challenges faced by rangers, and hopefully develop the same passion and determination to protect our natural world.