Nature’s Best Friend: How Tech Is Saving Snow Leopards and Migratory Birds
The need to act fast is pressing. A report by WWF in 2022 found a staggering 69 percent decline in global wildlife populations over the past 50 years. Such a rapid disappearance of animals and plants is a threat to Earth and humanity alike. Biodiversity is vital for our food, health and wellbeing, and even the economy. Preserving diverse forms of life is also simply the right thing to do.
Three Steps to a Nature-Positive Future
Our Biodiversity Statement is in keeping with our commitment to Tech for Good. It guides Tencent’s global operations and how we provide goods and services, using our expertise in innovation to drive nature conservation. Our three-pronged strategy to protect nature follows:
Build an eco-aware business: Tencent’s goal is to operate in a sustainable way with nature. We’ve pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030, and will consider the environmental impact of our business operations.
Promote digitalization in industry: we apply technologies such as AI and cloud computing to Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to tackle digitalization and efficiency issues in the process of ecological conservation.
Raise public awareness: the more people know about the importance of nature, the more likely they are to care about it and help. We’ve launched various products, services and platforms to promote public awareness and engagement.
Two Case Studies in Biodiversity Conservation
Case Study 1: Safeguarding Snow Leopards
The majestic and elusive snow leopard is classified as vulnerable, with an estimated population of as few as 4,000 remaining, mostly in China. A study published in the journal Biological Conservation suggests that by 2070, their habitats could shrink by two-thirds due to climate change. Snow leopards roam remote, rocky, cold-climate mountain ranges, making them very hard to study. But there’s an urgent need to do so if we are to save them.
Since 2021, we collaborated with WWF, Shan Shui Conservation Center and other snow leopard network members on the Tencent Snow Leopard Conservation Project. The goal was to develop a digital platform for tracking snow leopards. Using AI and sophisticated algorithms to analyze infrared cameras trap images, the system has a 98 percent success rate in accurately identifying snow leopards in the wild. The technology not only enhances data quality but also helps track the health and movements of these animals.
Volunteers from Tencent and Shan Shui Conservation Center set up infrared cameras.
The project led to the formation of the Snow Leopard Conservation Network, a collaborative hub for sharing resources, research and best practices among conservationists and scientists. Such coordination has enhanced conservation efforts, including habitat preservation, community engagement, and anti-poaching campaigns.
A snow leopard image captured by an infrared camera.
International cooperation has been key to the project’s success, with countries including Mongolia, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, the UK, Sweden, and the Netherlands involved in the technology exchange. Wildlife organizations, government agencies, and NGOs from around the world have helped establish global conservation standards and practices, and stimulated action to protect snow leopards.
Case Study 2: Tencent Migratory Bird Protection Project
Understanding migratory routes is essential for bird conservation. Many bird populations rely not just on their breeding and wintering grounds but also on habitats along their migration paths. By identifying these routes and habitats, conservationists can target key areas for the birds’ survival.
Tencent’s Migratory Bird Protection Project, launched in 2022, focuses on wetland protection, migratory bird pathways, and public education to safeguard bird journeys. A complementary WeBirder mini program provides a comprehensive bird identification and tracking tool. The app contains detailed information and audio files on nearly 1,500 bird species and features a system that uses big data for precise tracking and recording of bird movements, significantly improving bird positioning and identification capabilities.
Tencent partners with the SEE Foundation to host the 2023 Birding Season for All.
Additionally, Tencent partnered with the SEE Foundation to host the 2023 Birding Season for All in China, which attracted more than 100,000 participants online and offline. Another program, a collaboration with the Mangrove Conservation Foundation, targeted young students, equipping schools, communities, and wetland reserves with high-quality education resources, including birdwatching equipment, books, and professional guidance. Both initiatives highlight the importance of public education and citizen science in bird conservation.
Students join a birdwatching event co-organized by Tencent and the Mangrove Conservation Foundation.
Giving Nature a Helping Hand
Tencent is working on urban environmental projects such as water recycling and waste reduction projects, and helping to protect Asian elephants. Our Light Innovation program is supporting nonprofits to come up with clever ways to protect wildlife and habitats – from beavers to ancient trees. And we’re planting forests and regenerating mangroves to fight climate change. Collectively, these initiatives demonstrate technology’s powerful potential to protect earth’s biodiversity and our wellbeing.