Raising conservation funds thru biodiversity app

PLAYERS of the Animal Town mobile game app help animal characters manage a town to conserve biodiversity.(PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF DENR-UNDP BIOFIN)

The country’s efforts to conserve biodiversity areas are guided by the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. To implement the PBSAP, the Biodiversity Finance Initiative, an international agency that catalyzes investments in nature, estimated that P24 billion is required annually. However, the current level of national spending on biodiversity is only P5 billion per year. BIOFIN helps fill the 80 percent financing gap by coming up with solutions like the new mobile game application called Animal Town. 

The DENR recently launched the first-ever mobile game that mobilizes finance for nature in the Philippines.

DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said the Animal Town was developed to generate revenues which can be used to finance biodiversity conservation programs of the agency’s Biodiversity Management Bureau.
Revenues are generated through in-game purchase and advertisements with the Forest Foundation Philippines serving as fund manager.

FFP provides grants and technical assistance to projects that protect and conserve Philippine forests and support forest-dependent communities.

Fund raiser

Conceptualized in 2019, Animal Town was created by the BMB, BIOFIN and the United Nations Development Program. The free-to-play app takes inspiration from FarmVille, the popular farming-simulation social network game played on Facebook and involved farming activities.

“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 developer Lord Gosingtian.

“The game also serves as an educational tool to learn about the challenges and solutions to protect Philippine biodiversity,” he adds.

In development since 2019, Animal Town is also a real-world test to gauge if free-to-pay mobile games with in-app purchases can be a viable source for conservation funds, according to BIOFIN Philippines country manager Anabelle Plantilla.

There are about 30 million gamers in the Philippines, with roughly 12 million annually spending around P700 each on their gaming apps and PC games via 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,” said DENR Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and concurrent OIC BMB Director Marcial Amaro Jr.

“People rarely care about what they don’t understand. And biodiversity is something which still requires awareness raising among the wider population,” British Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils said during the launching of the Animal Town at the DENR head office.

“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,” she added.