With some scientists saying 35% of animal species could be extinct in the wild by 2050 – and the World Wildlife Fund saying it could be up to 50% – more needs to be done to help protect them – and their habitats.
For many of these animal species – like the mountain gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda, for example – much of the money raised to help conservation efforts comes from tourists traveling to the country, paying for permits, national park entrances, and tourism taxes.
Yet the trouble with many of these fragile ecosystems is that they are being affected by warming that is connected with emissions. While these direct tourist dollars can be effective, it’s important to develop other ways to support wildlife conservation that isn’t directly connected with travel.
That’s where movements like web3 and technology like NFTs are coming into play.
The Overlaps Between Digital Collectibles And Real-World Conservation Efforts
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have been cropping up in travel and tourism over the past few years.
While NFTs and digital collectibles first became famous for their high sale prices, they are now becoming more and more known for their real-world utility.
So, how will these digital collectibles help conservation efforts?
Put simply, wildlife conservation is at a tough moment. After a global pandemic affected people’s livelihoods – and the ways tourists can have that direct impact in destinations – conservation could stand some innovation.
More than just a way to bring in donations, NFTs offer sustainability. That’s thanks to smart contracts – rules that are written into the code of the NFT – that can allow for resale royalties so that individuals or organizations can continue earning after NFTs are traded.
NFTs can also help with awareness. By bringing attention to endangered species through attractive art and digital profile pictures, people get to be ambassadors for these campaigns wherever they have a digital footprint.
To help understand just the kind of impact conservation NFTs can have, let’s take a look at some real-world examples.
8 Conservation NFT Projects To Watch
World Wildlife Federation – NFA Non-Fungible Animals
Having raised about $275,000, the World Wildlife Federation’s Non-Fungible Animals is setting an example for how to use an emerging technology to save endangered animals.
These NFAs (a play on NFTs), are based on a limited number of crypto artworks. Each collection is designed to help species that have as little as 22 surviving members. Take a look at the list below:
- Amur Tiger, pop: approximately 600
- Baltic Porpoise, pop: approximately 447
- Cross River Gorilla, pop: approximately 300
- Giant Ibis, pop: approximately 290
- Giant Panda: pop: approximately 1,864
- Mountain Gorilla: pop: approximately 1,063
- Persian Leopard: pop: approximately 1,200
- Riverine Rabbit: pop: approximately 380
- Saola, pop: approximately 100
- Vaquita, pop: approximately 22
Just like these species are limited, the NFTs one can buy from this campaign are limited, too.
The campaign proceeds go to the specific project office for that animal or region to help with on-the-ground species conservation. This can include habitat preservation, creating new protected areas, fighting against poaching, and protecting species from overfishing.
WildEarth – Wildlife Conservation NFTs
WildEarth’s Wildlife Conservation NFTs are intended to contribute directly to the habitat in which each individual animal lives.
Given that wildlife conservation is directly tied to the habitat itself, a portion of the value of each sale goes to the custodian of the land the animal lives on.
From here, buying and selling NFTs helps give an ongoing incentive to them to keep conserving and protecting this wild habitat.
Holders of these NFTs can expect “a personal relationship with individual wild animals by receiving special updates and access to your animals’ sightings.”
Their pricing breakdown includes:
- 40% of every NFT sold goes to the custodian of the wildlife habitat
- 8% of every future resale is paid to that custodian in their local currency
Their Genesis Collection launch is designed to support the Djuma Game Reserve in South Africa and includes NFTs for:
- 11 leopards
- 9 lions
- 5 hyenas
Geared towards marine life conservation, Ripple Reefs is developing 8 NFT collections to promote the different ways we can protect the oceans.
Each of their collections is designed to support ocean conservation and marine life. Their partnerships – including with conservation agencies like Ocean Society – are designed to help them make these NFTs a useful, interactive, and educational experience.
In addition to just digital collectibles, they are creating a digital ecosystem that will include P2E gaming, metaverse aquariums, and more.
Nature Seychelles is a limited-edition NFT collection designed to protect the Seychelles magpie robin, at one point of the world’s rarest birds. These birds now exist on 5 of the Seychelles Islands; each of these NFTs is a representation of a living bird currently on Cousin Island.
These 59 tokens are intended to supplement the conservation budget that may have been lost as a result from declining tourism income, while also providing sustainable funding for the future – and promoting conservation by existing on the zero-carbon blockchain solutions of Porini Foundation.
An NFT art project with the purpose to unchain and rescue working elephants, Unchained Elephants is developing a multi-pronged approach to using new technologies.
From conservation efforts (40% of the funds raised go to rescuing elephants working in the tourism industry) to tourism development (an exclusive travel club will be launched for holders of Unchained Elephants NFTs), this project is combining remote conservation efforts with unique in-person rewards.
Simon Needham – No Kingdom Without Kings (NKWK)
Spearheaded by photographer Simon Needham, the No Kingdom Without Kings NFT collection began its initial sale phase on April 5, 2022 with 50% of the artist proceeds benefiting Glen Garriff (GG) Conservation.
These funds are intended to help GG Conservation with “veterinarian care, a much-needed on-site veterinary procedure center, lion camp enrichment, additional farm vehicles, and additional security for lion safety.”
In addition to funding animal conservation, the campaign centered around the chance to visit the “Human Lion Cage” encounter in South Africa. The experience included flights and accommodations on-site at the Lion House, a chance for the winner and a guest to enter the “Human Lion Cage” enclosure and to meet the NKWK lions.
Beneath The Waves
A non-profit organization focused on ocean conservation, Beneath the Waves has already had a significant impact on the ocean’s health with over 1 million square kilometers protected.
Now, they’re adding an NFT art piece to help take that conservation to the next level. The piece, the 1 of 1 edition “DISCOvery Shark”, allows its holder to go to the Caribbean to experience shark research.
By providing this access, the NFT helps to promote increased transparency for donors and investors. Purchases see where their money is going, as this NFT is tied to a specific shark tag or expedition.
More broadly, the launch of the NFT and its publicity (maybe you saw it in Times Square?) brings attention to the organization that allows them to connect with a larger audience.
My Gorilla Family
While still in its design phases, the team at Gorilla Family is taking strides toward using NFTs to support mountain gorilla conservation in Uganda.
Their goal with mountain gorilla NFTs is to allow for naming rights, mountain gorilla “adoption”, and more. In talks we’ve had with the creator, visits with the gorillas in Uganda could be a consideration, too.
Environmental Risks From Relying On NFTs
For all the possibility of new sources of revenue to support wildlife conservation, there are also some risks, too. The primary concern at this point are the environmental costs of the equipment used to run technologies like NFTs.
With many concerns about how environmentally friendly NFTs can actually be – even ones relying on less-energy intensive blockchain technology – it’s fair to ask if this technology is doing more harm than good.
For now, there are organizations on both sides of the fence. Some, like Greenpeace, won’t work with NFTs and reject donations in cryptocurrencies. Others, like International Animal Rescue, have raised tens of thousands of dollars.
With the examples we’ve listed above, groups like the WWF and WildEarth are using the Polygon blockchain, which uses the energy-efficient Proof of Stake method to secure its blockchain. Transactions are the equivalent of a couple of minutes of watching TV.
As a point of comparison, Bitcoin can require thousands to millions of times more energy.
Overall, though, this is still very much an emerging technology. Significant improvements have been made – like those from Bitcoin and Ethereum to Polygon and Solana – and will continue to be made.
More On Travel NFTs and Conservation
From starting your own NFT travel project and seeing what other travel and tourism operators are using NFTs for to our interview with Unchained Elephants, we’ve been regularly documenting travel NFTs, tourism NFTs, and the opportunity they have to make travel more responsible.