Gautam Shah: Exercising with a Snow Leopard: Video Games to Engage Wildlife Conservation

Visiting snow leopards in their natural habitat or hanging with penguins in Antarctica is a life-changing way to engage with nature but it’s not within the grasp of most people. So how can we leverage technology to offer that exposure and foster empathy for wildlife conservation? My guest today, Gautam Shah, figured out a way to combine his passion with entrepreneurship to connect people with wildlife in fun, unique ways. 

Today we talk about why public engagement with wildlife is so important, and how using games can be more effective than current conservation tactics. Gautam shares some very cool examples of work they’ve done with partners such as Adidas and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We talk about empathy vs. caring, how “behavior change” is not the primary goal of this work, and why many current conservation messages can derail efforts to engage everyday people by not having empathy for them. Toward the end, he candidly discusses the challenges entrepreneurs face to balance purpose with profit and the hard choices that one has to make to keep the organization alive and sustainable for the long haul. 

 To access the episode transcript, please click on the episode title at 

Key Takeaways:

  • If everyone had the opportunity to sit with an endangered animal, how many people would it change in favor of the planet? Though that’s not possible, there are ways people can engage individually in the change. 
  • Compassion is empathy in action. Empathetic people don’t suffer from a lack of caring, but often from not knowing how to take action. 
  • Internet of Elephants is using modern, creative ways to engage people in the story of conservation and making the stories told by the data gathered on the animals personal. They are making the stories of these animals personal to the individual. 

 “It’s a holistic process of thinking about the person and understanding their life before you can have any opportunity to think that you can introduce empathy for animals that might be very, very far away.”

—  Gautam Shah

Episode References: 

About Gautam Shah, Founder, Internet of Elephants, National Geographic and TED fellow

Gautam is the founder of Internet of Elephants, a social enterprise that develops groundbreaking digital tools to engage people with wildlife. He believes that engaging the public with nature and its conservation is the most important thing we can do for the long-term health of the planet and that we need to find modern mediums to tell stories and foster that engagement. Video games are the defining media of our time, so Internet of Elephants tells nature and wildlife stories through thoughtful combinations of mobile games, augmented reality, and data visualizations that use GPS and other data gathered about animals and the planet. In doing so, they hope to catalyze whole new approaches to engaging the public with wildlife. Gautam is both a National Geographic and TED Fellow.

Connect with Gautam Shah:  

Internet of Elephants: 



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