Take the City Nature Challenge!
By Dominic Naidoo
Fancy yourself an amateur biologist, botanist or birder? The iNaturalist City Nature Challenge might just be what you’re looking for.
Started in 2016 as a competition between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the City Nature Challenge (CNC) has grown into an international event, motivating people around the world to find and document wildlife in their cities.
During the annual four-day global bioblitz at the end of April, cities are in a collaboration-meets-friendly competition to see which city can gather the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in the event.
This year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2021 City Nature Challenge will not be focused on competition; instead, it will embrace the healing power of nature and celebrate tens of thousands of people all around the world, searching for and documenting their local biodiversity.
Cities across South Africa will be part of this year’s challenge.’
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To join this global initiative download and use the iNaturalist App to record as many plants and animals as you can find in your local nature reserve, public parks, schools, beaches and even your very own garden.
The App works using crowd-sourced information shared by subject-matter experts and other users familiar with the species that are posted.
What you would need:
• A smartphone with a camera and GPS.
• Internet connection to upload observations.
• The iNaturalist App available on the Apple App Store and Google Playstore.
How to use the App:
• Join iNaturalist
• Use your smartphone or camera to find wildlife or plant species, take a photo.
• Upload your observations and share them with the world.
• Check back to see if your observations have been identified or if people are talking about it.
Reinforcing awareness of the natural world among children is increasingly important and increasingly challenging.
The iNaturalist App and the City Nature Challenge could be a great way to entice kids outdoors, to explore the biodiversity around the yard, school or even at a local nature reserve. Children who have grown up in and around the natural world are more likely to want to help protect and conserve it.
According to Our World in Data, over 4 billion people live in cities and other urban areas with this number increasing to 7 billion in 2050. Many kids don’t know where their food comes from let alone what species of animals and plants are native to their backyard. If parents and teachers do not inspire this interest, the effects would be devastating to the future of our natural world and to our planet as a whole.
Research from American Professor Lolly Tai has shown that being disconnected from nature leads to obesity and lack of energy and makes children more prone to violence. The Professor uses a term coined by author Richard Louv, called “nature-deficit disorder.”
These are few activities you can do via the iNaturalist app for this year’s City Nature Challenge:
• Attend a Bioblitz.
• Take the School Challenge.
• Visit your local nature reserve.
• Join one of your local nature societies.
• Be a top observer in your area!
* The eThekweni City Nature Challenge takes place between April 30 - May 3.