UNDP-BIOFIN launched a gaming app “Animal town” to support biodiversity conservation

launch of the event
launch of the event

Videogames can positively influence how people view the world.  

Since the very first videogame, Bertie the Brain, was unveiled in 1950, developers have conjured a bewildering array of worlds for us to explore. 

From Nintendo’s iconic 1985 Family Computer hit Super Mario to Nokia’s addictive 1997 Snake phone app, videogames have moulded millions of players, ranging from pre-schoolers to senior citizens. 

To foster love for Philippine wildlife and biodiversity, the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (DENR-UNDP BIOFIN) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) together with the Forest Foundation Philippines (FFP) recently launched a new mobile game application called Animal Town. 

“Animal Town is a chill-paced simulation game where you build and manage a tiny town of animals. You can gather resources, develop various characters and complete a host of quests,” explains Animal Town App Developer Lord Gosingtian. “The game also serves as an educational tool to learn about the challenges and solutions to protect Philippine biodiversity.”   

“In development since 2019, Animal Town is also a real-world test to gauge if free-to-play mobile games with in-app purchases can be a viable source for conservation funds,” says DENR-UNDP BIOFIN Philippines Country Manager Anabelle Plantilla. There are about 30 million gamers in the Philippines, with roughly 12 million annually spending around PHP700 (USD13) each on their beloved apps and PC games via game downloads and in-app purchases.  

“There are 46 million registered mobile app users in the Philippines, so even a tiny percentage of paying gamers can do a lot to support our country’s conservation initiatives,” says DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga.

“I am especially excited about the launch of the app because it is something innovative worldwide. Nobody has ever done anything like this before. A gaming app that has been developed not for the sake of gaming or profit, but to raise money for the conservation of nature and provide users with important information about biodiversity, such as species, for example. I am a user of the app myself and recommend everyone to download and use it," says the UNDP-BIOFIN Global Manager Onno van den Heuvel in his video message to the participants of the event. 

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Funds generated by the new app will be managed by conservation partner FFP while DENR-BMB will identify conservation programmes to be supported by Animal Town. 

“We will exercise prudent stewardship over the funds generated by Animal Town. We will ensure that the funds are utilized under the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) and are directed towards the conservation of our natural resources. We also commit to maintain transparency in reporting the utilization of the funds to our valued players and partners,” says Forest Foundation Philippines Executive Director Atty. Jose Andres Canivel. 

“People rarely care about what they don’t understand. And biodiversity is something which still requires awareness raising among the wider population,” adds British Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils. “The use of technology, specifically mobile applications, could be a game changer here. Animal Town can play a unique role in softly building that understanding in a fun, non-intrusive way. It’s a readymade supplement for educators to teach environmental science and biology.”

Animal Town hopes to inspire a new generation of gamers to learn about Philippine wildlife. “Children learn so fast and positively attributing animals from the onset might just inspire today’s tiny tykes to ‘Level Up’ and do bigger things for a greener and bluer planet,” concludes UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Selva Ramachandran. 

Animal Town can be downloaded now at the Google Play Store for Android Phones or the Apple App Store for iOS Phones.

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