Seeking ways to support long-term programmes as traditional funding dry out, Nature Seychelles, with the support of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Porini Foundation, on Monday launched the world's first digital species.
According to Nature Seychelles, the Seychelles magpie robin is being offered for sale as the first ever digital nature collectible, a Non-Fungible Token for conservation. Each token will be a representation of a living bird currently protected on Cousin Island Special Reserve in Seychelles, which are all known and can be identified through a unique system that also includes every aspect of their biology.
Non-fungible tokens are tokens that can be used to represent ownership of unique items. Written on a blockchain, they can only have one official owner at a time.
According to the website Verge.com, NFTs are designed to give you something that can't be copied: ownership of the work. To put it in terms of physical art collecting: anyone can buy a Monet print. But only one person can own the original.
Nirmal Shah, chief executive of Nature Seychelles, a non-profit environmental conservation organisation, said that as "traditional sources of funding have dried up, we need innovative ways to support long-term programmes that are the backbone of successful conservation."
"The Seychelles magpie robin will take us into the unchartered waters of digital tokens for conservation, with a limited edition of the first 59 collectibles - representing a 'digital twin' of this endangered living bird. This is just the beginning of experiments to find new income streams for conservation," said Shah.
All proceeds of the initial sale will go directly to Nature Seychelles specifically to support ongoing conservation efforts.
Talking about how the idea became a reality, Shah explained that "soon after the pandemic started, I wrote a blog entitled 'Next-Gen Conservation' where I said that international organisations, tech people and on-the-ground conservation actors must come together to build a new architecture for conservation."
"IUCN took note and we are very grateful to key people at IUCN and the Porini Foundation. Without them, the Digital Nature Collectibles would have remained a great idea, and nothing more," Shah said.
The programme development manager at IUCN, James Hardcastle, said that "thanks to the collaboration with Nature Seychelles, this pioneering use of digital and financial technology can be promoted through a new 'Green List exchange' where new ideas and success stories on innovative funding mechanisms can be shared."
"We will further explore how other Green List protected areas and their supporters can secure new and additional resources. One idea now is to create a special series of 'nature collectibles' from protected areas around the world, and encourage new digital supporters and investors to join conservation efforts," Hardcastle continued.
The digital species which will be assigned an initial value for their sale can be resold and shared by collectors. Owners of the digital Seychelles magpie robin can sell on their nature collectibles and the follow-on proceeds will be shared between the seller, Nature Seychelles and partners. In this way, the active collection of these tokens will generate an income stream for nature conservation.
Interested person can make their purchase on the Porini Foundation website with prices ranging from $10 to $10,000. There are multiple ways in which a person can show, share, trade or display their nature collectibles. The easiest is to use the dedicated App which will be available for use on mobile phones.