Citizen Scientists Around The World Monitor Elephants In Gabon Via Camera Traps

By Mongabay Published: November 22, 2017, 8:28 am
Camera traps - Saving African ElephantsCitizen Scientists Around The World Monitor Elephants In Gabon Via Camera Traps. Photo: PBS.org

Camera traps have proven to be a powerful tool in conservationists’ arsenal for monitoring forests and wildlife.

But the mountains of data they capture need to be sifted through in order to be useful, which often presents a significant challenge for cash-strapped conservationists and researchers.

To meet this challenge, a team led by Anabelle Cardoso, a PhD candidate at Oxford University in the UK, has turned to another promising new method that is reshaping the way research is done in modern times: citizen science.

Slow population growth and the ivory poaching crisis have driven down the numbers of African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in recent years.

“We want to conserve these beautiful creatures, but to do that effectively we need to know where these elephants are and how many of them there are, so we can pick the best places to focus our efforts,” Cardoso and her colleagues write.

From Mongabay. Story by Mike Gaworecki.

Camera traps have proven to be a powerful tool in conservationists’ arsenal for monitoring forests and wildlife. But the mountains of data they capture need to be sifted through in order to be useful, which often presents a significant challenge for cash-strapped conservationists and researchers.

To meet this challenge, a team led by Anabelle Cardoso, a PhD candidate at Oxford University in the UK, has turned to another promising new method that is reshaping the way research is done in modern times: citizen science.

Slow population growth and the ivory poaching crisis have driven down the numbers of African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in recent years.

“We want to conserve these beautiful creatures, but to do that effectively we need to know where these elephants are and how many of them there are, so we can pick the best places to focus our efforts,” Cardoso and her colleagues write on the website of Elephant Expedition, the forest elephant citizen science project they launched in the West African nation of Gabon in collaboration with zooniverse.com.

Elephant Expedition was created to monitor forest elephants through a network of camera traps, and the project’s interactive website lets volunteers help classify the resulting photos. Cardoso told Mongabay that it’s not just elephants that citizen scientists might spot in a camera trap photo, however: “We also see loads of other exciting animals, especially gorillas and chimpanzees,” she said.

There are currently about 9,000 volunteers logging onto Elephant Expedition and pitching in, but the camera traps collect so many photographs that need to be classified — about 750,000 to date — that the team is “in desperate need of more help,” according to Cardoso.

Read more at Mongabay.

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