16-Year-Old Creates Wildlife Tracker Website for African Game Reserve

Mister-E/CC BY 2.0

There are lots of ways technology can bring us closer to wildlife, but not many have been created by a 16-year-old. That's what makes Kruger Sightings, a wildlife tracker website that provides real-time animal sightings for Kruger national park in South Africa, even more impressive.

Teenager Nadav Ossendryver uses crowdsourcing to collect information on what animals have been sighted and where. Now that more than half the world's population is armed with a cell phone, this type of data collection is becoming increasingly effective. Visitors can immediately send updates to Kruger Sightings when they spot one of the park's many animals, such as lions, rhinos, elephants, giraffes or leopards, letting other visitors more easily achieve that perfect sighting or photo.

What started as a blog to satisfy his curiosity about where the best animal sightings were has grown into something much bigger, even attracting the attention of Google, which wants to commercialize the idea.

The Guardian reports that in addition to his schoolwork in Johannesburg, "he gets up early, before Kruger park opens each morning, so he can post immediate updates based on information from visitors using Twitter, Facebook, BlackBerry messenger or the website itself."

Kruger Sightings now has 18,000 followers and has helped Ossendryver himself spot more animals on his last two visits there. And it's his love for the park that is home to 336 types of trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals, that fueled his desire to build the website.

He told South Africa's Sunday Times, "I love everything about the game reserve. You can go 1,000 times and never see the same thing. I could spend all day there, but not all day on the beach."

Beyond just allowing tourists and visitors to spot the park's animals, the site is also doing its part to protect them. The site provides visitors with contact numbers for reporting rhino poaching, a growing problem at the park.

For his work, Ossendryver has been named the park's first virtual honorary ranger.

Tags: Animals | Conservation | Technology