When you think of conservation most people envisage bearded dudes in Swandri's and ruthless ladies rocking gumboots, trekking through the wilderness and living off beef jerky. The reality is this image has become outdated yet it hasn't stopped it from sticking with the culture and damaged people's perception of the good these people are really doing. With everything else in the world shifting to the social scene, it was about time conservation did the same and the incredible team at Squawk Squad have done that with a twist, they're giving the results to the palm of your hand. Its amazing to think that we could order a taxi with a click but not make an effort to save our native birds, but now its possible and it is poised to take off (no pun intended). We just had to have a chat with these incredible bird philanthropists and discuss their mission, motives and tips and tricks for the trade.
Liam: What is Squawk Squad and where did this ingenious idea come from?
Fraser: Squawk Squad is a social enterprise that aims to connect and engage New Zealanders in the protection and growth of our native birdlife.
Put simply: Trap pests. Save birds. Get notified. Make a difference.
Squawk Squad connects people with sanctuaries by an app that gives them the ability to collectively invest in sensor-connected traps in aid of sanctuary projects. The investors can see where their trap is deployed in the sanctuary and are notified in real-time when their trap activates. This indicates the positive impact that their investment is having on native birdlife.
We use modern, self-resettable traps that trigger 24 times without any maintenance. Together with a live view of all traps and when they activate, sanctuaries are saved a considerable amount of labour time.
L: Where did this idea come from?
F: Founders Alex Hannon and Fraser McConnell decided they needed more than their 9-5 and got together with a few engineering mates from university to spit ball around some ideas for side projects. They set a criteria for the project they would choose. It had to be about a bigger picture for New Zealand and instead about success or money, it had to be for others. After a day of zip lining with Rotorua Canopy Tours, Alex was inspired by how they funded 'Goodnature' traps to protect the surrounding area. He took this back to the team and they set about looking for the greatest effect they could have in the conservation of New Zealand.
L: What is Squawk’s strategy for standing out from the multiple other social enterprises in NZ?
A large value and core belief we strive for is pursuing something that is bigger than us. We are not doing this for our benefit, we are doing this for the benefit of New Zealand’s wildlife and future generations of who we hope will not lose out on anymore of our unique native species.
We stand by the transparency that 85% of our funding goes directly into the field for sanctuaries benefit. Defending sanctuaries is definitely a feat in itself yet our greater purpose is to engage more New Zealanders in the process of conservation. This is because educating them on how they can take further care of New Zealand’s wildlife and empowering them to take action themselves could have a much greater impact.
We feel that many people understand that there is a problem and feel that they would like to do something, however they do not have the time or a more accessible means to do so and current options often lack transparency as to where their contributions are going. We aim to change this and create a convenient and engaging way of helping our country’s wildlife with an issue that should have been solved many years ago.
L: How has Squawk Squad grown its presence in the market?
F: Our market presence has grown from diving into the conservation space, interviewing sanctuaries across the country and meeting with key conservation organisations. Having our own conservationist as part of our team has been a huge bonus as well. Not to mention the outstanding positive responses we have received from social media and publicity.
L: Where has the inspiration arisen from to keep this dream alive everyday?
F: We are a team of passionate kiwis all looking to protect and sustain our unique native wildlife. All challenges and hurdles become fairly simple when you bring it back to what we are trying to achieve. Hopefully on they way we might inspire other kiwis to dream a little bigger than the 9-5 or the zeroes at the end of a wage.
L: What is next for Squawk Squad and what would you like to see happen?
Currently we are engaged in our Kickstarter campaign which will fuel our first large-scale project out in the Waitakere ranges in a sanctuary called Ark in the Park as well as provide us with the funds needed for the next development stage.
We have hit our initial funding target and we have now set our sights higher with stretch goals. If we receive enough funding, we are expanding nationwide. We have planned three projects across New Zealand and we are leaving it up to our backers to then vote on which project they would like to see go ahead.
Long term we want to establish projects across the entirety of New Zealand and transform the way people engage with conservation.
L: If you had to give one piece of advice to an up-and-coming passionate person with a dream to see a change, what would it be?
F: There’s never a perfect time to start. Stop waiting, start creating!
There's more to this group than meets the eye. They aren't interested in wasting their spare time on tedious and pointless activities, they saw a gap in the social enterprise market and they jumped on it. It's no surprise that they are having an array of positive responses, their combination of an engineers mind and a conservationists heart has perfectly combined to create a platform that promotes conversation, investment and a personal touch. When you take something as meaningful to the New Zealand public as our range of native, beautiful birds and tell everyone that they can actually help and see the results, people will come running because everyone wants to be a part. Who would've thought our most technical minds could think of this before our creative ones did?
When I was 10 years old I tramped the Kepler Track with my dad and my most vivid memory is wasting a whole roll of my disposable camera on a kea who landed at the hut. I was so taken aback by its beauty I wasted $20 on terrible photos but it stuck with me because its one of only three times i've ever seen the bird. It just shows that as kiwi's, we truly love our wildlife and knowing that something like this exists is so special because it actually makes us realise how much we can contribute. People love to know their impact, its all great giving money to an organisation but not seeing the results first-hand can really drain from the utility we receive in contributing. Being actually notified of our contribution in live time is so ingenious and only encourages more and more involvement. The future of technology is a connected world, so it's only time that conserving this planet catches up. I can only hope more Not-for-profits twig on because the future is bright if we have minds like these leading the way.
Squawk on Squawk Squad, Squawk on.
If you want to get involved with Squawk Squad, the link to their kickstarter is right here!