☆ Get your Apps in Order

Remember that you might not have a connection at the destination. So make sure that the apps that you’re taking with you come with an offline version that you would download before leaving. Also, remember to check that they indeed work in an offline mode.


➭ Nature Field Guides Apps

In the old days, we would travel with books. Now we travel with apps! And there are tons of them out there to help you identify that bird, that butterfly, that mammal, that invertebrate… The benefit? You can travel with 100 books if you want for the weight of your Kindle, tablet, phablet or phone… Priceless!

Here are a few favorites of ours:

eNature.com — Offers apps covering a wide range of field guides including guides for US Natural Parks wildlife.

Leafsnap — An electronic guide to leaves of trees currently expanding to cover all the United States but for now focuses on trees in the Northeast and Canada.

iSpot — A friendly and free community helping to identify wildlife and share nature. Add your photo and the community helps identify what you’ve seen. Over 30,000 species have been identified.

Of course for us birders there are the wonderful bird guides that we could not live without! And as expected, there are almost as many bird apps as there are countries in the world. The simplest for you is to check the Bird Apps of the World List.

These are only a few. Check the web: there’s is so much more out there!


➭ Naturalist / Wildlife Monitoring Apps

iNaturalist — This encyclopedic site is a gathering place for naturalists of all levels of expertise. Scientists can search the crowdsourced observations on iNaturalist for specific species and locations for their own research.

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We host a few projects on iNaturalist, documenting the biodiversity of the habitats that we survey (the EwA Biodiversity Projects). We also have a world project, where we record what we sight wherever we may be in the World: The EwA Global Biodiversity Project. Check it out, join our community and start adding your observations to the project! We’ll be glad to showcase on our social media your most popular project sightings!

Also located under this umbrella site, National Geographic’s Great Nature Project allows people to upload their pictures to a global database of biodiversity, as well as “interact with other nature lovers by commenting and suggesting identifications for the amazing range of life you see.”

Snapshot Serengeti — Visiting the Serengeti in Tanzania or Kenya? Well, then you can help. When scientists from the Serengeti Lion Project needed help cataloging millions of pictures from their 225 camera traps, they called upon the general public. Participants study images of African fauna in the project database and answer questions about the animals’ size, shape, and color that identify them for further research. So far, this animal-loving crowd has been accurate 96 percent of the time.

Wild Me — This site hosts user-friendly websites for anyone to upload sightings of wildlife. Those lucky enough to see the world’s biggest fish in person can report sightings at Wildbook for Whale Sharks. The same goes for manta rays at MantaMatcher. Behind the scenes, the Wild Me software plots the unique spots of animals to identify individuals. Images of the same animals seen in different locations, for instance, can tell scientists where the animals travel.

iBats — Allows for recording and monitoring of bat calls

Plant Tracker — if in the UK, identify and report invasive non-native plant species.

These are only a few. Check the web: there’s is so much more out there!


➭ Wildlife Crime & Animal Abuse Reporting Apps

Wildlife tourism is worth up to $250 billion (USD) annually and its estimated that about 550,000 wild animals are kept in wildlife attractions around the world and 110 million people visit cruel wildlife attraction as tourists each year [MT15], unaware of the cruelty that goes on behind the scenes [BC16].

As for illegal wildlife trafficking: In 2014 illegal wildlife trade was estimated to be worth US$50- 150 billion per year. The global illegal fisheries catch is valued at US$10-23.5 billion a year and illegal logging, including processing, at US$30-100 billion [UNEP]. Those numbers went up since then.

So, more than ever, a critical set of apps to have with you are wildlife crime reporting apps so that you can report illegal trade activities, poaching, and welfare abuses.

Always always have your own safety in mind! Never report when there is a possibility of danger to you! Check on the web what new or updated app there are out there. Of course, always check for the credential of the apps: There’s no point reporting if the report goes nowhere.

Here are a few reporting apps that we know of:

WildScan (Wildlife Crime) — Anyone who suspects an animal at a pet store or street market may have been illegally snatched from the wild can report it to authorities via this Android-only app. Users can choose from menus to answer questions about size, shape, color, and species. They can also upload an image of the animal. Local authorities get alerted and can follow up on anything suspicious.

Wildlife Witness (Wildlife Crime) — Taronga Zoo have partnered with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, to create Wildlife Witness; the first global community action smartphone app in the fight against illegal wildlife trade. The Wildlife Witness smartphone app allows tourists and locals to easily report wildlife trade by taking a photo, pinning the exact location of an incident and sending these important details to TRAFFIC.

Life Safe (Animal Abuse | US) — designed to help animals by letting you report abuse and neglect using your phone. You should first call your local law enforcement, then use the app to alert ALDF (Animal Legal Defense Fund).

Also, check the EwA Zoo Evaluation Guide 🐾 for how to reporting animal abuses in facilities that host captive wildlife and that you encounter wherever in the world.

If an app fails at the time of the incident make sure to take pics (preferably with GPS location) and notes to document the event when you’re back home –again only when it is safe to do so. And make sure to follow-up on the report.


➭ Language/Translation apps

If you’re traveling in a country with a different language than yours, then the chances that they speak your language is minimal –and why should they anyway? So It’s a good idea to have a little phrasebook, and a language dictionary so that you can quickly mumble or point to some words. It’s even better if you try to learn a little of the language before going. Communicating (or making a real effort) in the host country language is a true ice-breaker.

Of course these days, these books are likely to come as apps. Go for them: it means less weight to carry. And of course, remember that you might not have a connection, so do not forget to upload the offline versions prior to leaving.


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◊ The references mentioned in this page are listed in the Extended Bibliography.

Nature Traveler & Volunteer Essentials
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