In honour of International Day for Biodiversity (May 22), Alibaba-owned fintech company Ant Group set out to protect the ancient trees of Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Nanjing.
Launched in partnership with local government bodies, the project builds on the success of Ant Group’s award-winning Ant Forest, a mobile game launched in 2016 that converts users’ “green behaviours” into new trees.
The scheme works as follows: by using public transport, for example, Ant Forest users clock up “green energy” points, which they can use to grow virtual trees. For every virtual tree generated, Ant Forest plants a tree in the real world. Users can compare their tree-growing progress against that of friends and family, motivating them to follow through with more sustainable habits.
This time Ant Group focused on the perseveration of already existing trees, rather than forestation, with users in Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou able to donate green energy points to the protection of ancient trees in their city. The funds generated by Ant Forest through user gameplay are put towards health inspection, maintenance, and rescue of ancient trees.
The scheme also helps urbanites connect more with their surroundings through the 360 feature, which allows Ant Forest users to view individual trees in close detail with panoramic footage. The display also shows a profile of each tree, including its species and age, and users can make virtual wishes on their chosen ancient tree.
The project is set to be rolled out in more cities and provinces in the future, keeping China at the forefront of the digital approach to biodiversity maintenance.