I spend a lot of time in the jungle in Malaysia. It’s wonderful to get out there and run along the trails and feel the stresses of working life dissolve as the sweat rushes out of your body. It’s also great to spend an afternoon chilling with friends in a mountain stream.
Two things really irritate me. The first is that the jungle is being cut down. The second is that people like medicine made out of tigers so lots of tigers get killed. The other day this boiled to the surface a bit when someone asked on Quora “What are the best souvenirs to bring back from Malaysia?” I replied Tiger Paw, and was promptly accused of trolling, and then clawed the poor person who made the accusation.
It’s a big problem. The country is large, much of it remote, and there’s a lot of money to be made so many of the enforcement mechanisms could be stronger. Many people in Malaysia are also apathetic saying that not much can be done.
At the same time lots of people love going into the jungle. Mountain bikers, hashers, trail runners (like me), 4×4 drivers, trekkers and of course the orang asli. A few friends and I have been mulling this over for a few years now – how can we find a way to protect the jungle in a really collaborative way, so that everyone works in their own self interest, doing something small, but the net result is pretty huge.
We’re going to reach out to all these people going into the jungle and get them to send us photos and gps tracks of where they go. We’re then going to create maps of the jungle using this data on a collaborative mapping platform. This will be an information source for governments and NGOs but at the same time it will encourage more people and more eyes to be reporting on what is happening making it harder for the jungle to be ruined.
Trekkers go into the jungle and map it – just as they do with driving apps like Waze.
Volunteers Map Editors edit and update the maps – probably based on Open Street Map
NGOs and Government Agencies benefit from improved data quality about endangered habitats and species
The Environment benefits from a large volunteer community monitoring and reporting it’s health
Tigers benefit because there are many more people out there looking for threats
We’re going to start it off looking at Malaysia’s Titiwangsa range but the whole architecture will be designed to be scalable so that it can be deployed in other countries where there are similar issues.
It will work well for Malaysia because of the good combination of sports enthusiasts and accessibility to much of the jungle – it is long and thin – the lack of extreme poverty and the presence of photogenic animals to leverage public attention and generate enthusiasm among map editors for the work.
If you’re interested in find out more of supporting us send us an email. It’s a part time evening project and there’s a lot to do to get it off the ground
(and if you do fancy hiking the Apalachian Trail check out this guide by my friends Mila and Mark)