There’s nothing quite like filters and fun features to take your social media game to the next level — in fact these days social platforms are almost unimaginable without them, they’re part of the pleasure of interacting online. 

A few years ago Snapchat introduced new software called the Lens Studio, a way for users to dive into augmented reality (AR) experiences through the use of what the app calls “Lenses”.

What if, with this interactive technology, you could do more than virtually change the colors of buildings or interact with caricatures? What if it could transport you back in time, to see some of the world’s most rare and remarkable animals? 

Enter “The Zoo of Extinct Animals”; an AR experience launched in early 2021 that brings extinct animal species back to life. 

Created by graphic designer and creative director, Sebastian Koseda, the Snapchat lens allows users to view and interact with 3D representations of extinct wildlife from wherever they are. The project aims to bring awareness to animals that we’ve lost to human activity over the last 20 years, and to open the world’s eyes to the need for immediate change to prevent yet more species becoming extinct too. 

Through the lens, Koseda has been able to revive the baiji dolphin, which used to be found in China's Yangtze River and can be seen in the lens alongside a plastic bag that symbolizes the plastic pollution that contributed to its extinction, and the Peyrenean ibex, which used to be found in Northern Spain, both of which have been declared extinct in recent years. 

In an interview with CNN, the 32-year-old London-based artist described the reactions that people have had to his creation. 

"Generally, the feedback is like: 'Oh my god, wow, that's beautiful. It's a dolphin swimming in the living room,” he said. “And then: 'Oh god, it's extinct. That's really sad'. So, it hits home. It's like: 'Oh, I'll never be able to see that in real life.'”

"Because it's out of sight, it's kind of out of mind ... that these animals are going extinct in places that we might not see, like in the Yangtze River," he adds. "It's still happening and it's still due to human interaction, human disruption, [and] pollution."

As well as the dolphin and the ibex, Koseda aims to bring to life the West African black rhino, the Formosan clouded leopard, and the Caribbean monk seal, with the rhino already in the works with an anticipated release sometime within the next six months. 

The idea of virtually animating extinct species is not new; Google Arts & Culture brought dinosaurs to life in 2016 in partnership with 50 natural history institutions, and SAOLA studio in France has used AR to bring life to 11 animal species that are extinct, or near extinction. 

The world’s wildlife is quickly dwindling. According to the WWF’s Living Planet Report, human activity has eradicated two-thirds of the world’s wildlife since 1970. Additionally, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 138,300 species are currently critically endangered, with more than 38,500 being threatened with extinction. 

The WWF’s report stresses that while human activity is causing the destruction of the world’s ecosystems and threatening biodiversity at an unprecedented rate, there is still a chance to save endangered species by conserving nature, reconsidering how we produce and consume food, and tackling climate change head-on.

Koseda’s AR creations have been two years in the making, and he wanted the first projects to focus on environmental issues. His lenses are currently available on Snapchat for you to view, interact with, and use to help keep the conversation of protecting the world’s wildlife alive. 

The world’s last best chance to effectively combat climate change is currently underway in Glasgow, with decisions made at the ongoing COP26 climate conference helping to dictate whether the animal species on the endangered and threatened list will have a fighting chance. Keep up with the conference's latest developments here, and take action calling on world leaders to prioritize the planet in their decision-making here.  

Global Citizen Life

Defend the Planet

This Snapchat Lens Brings You Face-to-Face With Extinct Animals

By Khanyi Mlaba