Animal ringtones let users hear call of the wild
by Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Amid the
cacophony of cell phone ringtones these days, add these: the clickety-click-click
of a rare Central American poison arrow dart frog, the howl of a Mexican gray
wolf and the bellows of an Arctic beluga whale.
An environmental group is hoping that the more people hear these sounds from
threatened animals, the more they'll wonder where they came from -- and question
the fate of the animals and birds that make them.
"The point here is education and inspiration," said Michael Robinson, a
conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity's office in Pinos
Like other activist groups, the center is looking to the immediate attention
cell phones can bring to its cause. Already, some 24,000 people have downloaded
the rare rings for free from the center's Web site.
Four in five voting-age Americans have cell phones, and that number is expected
to keep growing. By 2008, as many as 30 percent of wireless users are likely to
forgo their land lines and nearly all cell phones will have Internet
capabilities, according to a study by the New Politics Institute.
"With the ringtones, this is the tip of the iceberg," said Peter Leyden,
director of the institute, which studies the impact of cell phones -- what he
and others call "mobile media" -- on political and social campaigns.
Take for example the efforts of U2 front man Bono. He got thousands of people to
sign up for the ONE Campaign, a nonprofit group dedicated to fighting global
AIDS and poverty, by asking fans to send a text message during the band's
Amnesty International also uses text messaging to send action notices to members
around the world.
Katrin Verclas, executive director of the Nonprofit Technology Network and a
coordinator with MobileActive.org, said there's a lot to be learned as campaigns
-- both political and social -- try new ways to connect with people.
"Nonprofits have been using online tools such as Web sites and e-mail to get out
a message, but the handwriting is on the wall as far as the possibilities for
mobile devices to be added to that mix," she said. "Mobile phones are just
another piece of the equation. There is still so much room or experimentation."
Peter Galvin, a co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, came up with
the idea for the free ringtones of endangered and rare species as a way to
educate people -- especially the younger, technologically savvy generation.
"And with young people, it has to be interesting and it has to be cool," he
While the ringtones might be amusing to hear, Robinson said the ringtone is
"We can get people thinking about something outside their immediate world, a
more wilder world," he said.