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23/24 APRIL 2022

Who Are We


Background to The Western Ghats Challenge


The Western Ghats region of India is a wonder of the world. There is an incredible variety of life in this biodiversity hotspot, from dancing frogs and soaring hornbills to forests that are living links to the age of the dinosaurs. It covers only 5% of India’s land but has over a third of the country’s birds and amphibians — many of them Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species.


On The Edge, our partner, has made a long-term commitment to the Western Ghats focused on raising conservation attention for the whole region as well as the weird, wonderful, highly endangered species that live there. On the Edge has partnered with Nature in Focus, a network of India-based storytellers; as well as Nature Conservation Foundation, one of India’s leading conservation organisations. Together they are creating innovative stories about lesser-known endangered species, as well as supporting the much-needed conservation efforts of local people and organisations.


Please join us on this incredible and exciting journey to protect and conserve one of the earth’s most magical and important ecosystems.


What is The Western Ghats Challenge?


The Western Ghats Challenge is a global innovation hackathon, where participants from around the world will come together virtually over two days on 23/24 April 2022, to work together to develop new technology and campaign ideas to support the Western Ghats campaign. All of the solutions developed at the hackathon, will go directly back to the conservation organisations supporting this vital effort.


How do I apply?


  • Applications are now open and are free to apply for;

  • Applications will close at 22.00GMT on Monday 11 April 2022; and

  • Teams will be announced on Wednesday 13 April 2022 and drop-in mentorship sessions will be held during that week to prepare the teams for the two-day hackathon on 23/24 April 2022.


Why apply?


  • Free to attend;

  • Meet like-minded young professionals from around the world;

  • Work in teams to develop new tech/campaign solutions for conservation;

  • Learn more about the vital Western Ghats region and attend talks from global scientists and conservation experts;

  • Fantastic professional networking opportunities with leading tech and environmental experts;

  • Participants will be awarded a completion certificate for attending; and

  • Add the experience to your C.V and LinkedIn.


The Western Ghats Challenge is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) throughout our processes and ensuring that DEI it is embedded into everything we do.


What are the 3 challenges?


Challenge Question #1

Creating a location-based real-time mobile phone app for human-elephant co-existence.


Humans and elephants share the landscape in Valparai, a region in the Western Ghats, but this can often be dangerous for both local communities and the elephants. At present, the Nature Conservation Foundation’s elephant team sends out bulk SMS messages to community members with alerts on elephant locations and movement based on real time tracking, to help minimise dangerous interactions. However, one downside to bulk SMS is that the information in any given message is not relevant to the majority of recipients (who are spread out over the entire landscape). To improve this, we would like to develop an interactive mobile app that alerts users based on their real time locations and those of elephants, and enables real-time report confirmations. This will help keep people and elephants safe in the Western Ghats, but could be applied worldwide wherever there are areas where people coexist with wildlife.


Challenge Question #2


Developing an automated amphibian ID recording database using machine learning and open-source amphibian audio recordings.


The Western Ghats is a globally important amphibian hotspot and contains some of highest diversity of frogs in the world including many that are highly endangered and found nowhere else, for example, the Purple Frog. But amphibians are small and cryptic, often out only at night or in heavy rain, and not always easy to identify by call, making them hard to monitor which species are present. To help the Nature Conservation Foundation better understand and protect the amphibians in the Western Ghats, through this challenge we are aiming to apply AI to accurately and consistently identify amphibian species from using open-source audio amphibian recording data. This will enable cost-effective large-scale and long-term amphibian monitoring across the region, and the process of automating call identification can also be applied to amphibian monitoring elsewhere in the world.


Challenge Question #3


How would you encourage people in Indian cities (outside of the Western Ghats region) to take action to protect this biodiversity hotspot?


The more people care about the Western Ghats, the more they will help protect the landscapes and species within it. Nowhere is that action more important than in India itself. Not only is the biodiversity region a treasure for the whole country, but also it is more accessible to people living in India. Their actions have potentially greater impact. This challenge is premised on a problem that confronts all city-dwellers: a relative disconnection from nature. Here we are looking for creative solutions to reconnecting Indian urbanities to the wonder of the natural world, by inspiring care about the Western Ghats region as well as action to protect it. We are looking for campaign concepts and blueprints for how to implement them.



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