By Hannah Campbell
The population of reticulated giraffe, one of the most iconic mammals on the planet, has declined by over 50% over the past 30 years – from 36,000 to just around 15,000 today. Poaching, loss of habitat, and land degradation are all pushing the giraffe toward an ominously named “silent extinction.”
To effectively help protect the reticulated giraffe, researchers must first understand how these towers of the savanna use their habitat. Over 100 motion-activated cameras have been installed both here at Loisaba Conservancy and at Namunyak Community Conservancy to the North East. A local team of Twiga Walinzi (which means Giraffe Guards in Swahili) is conducting field research to study and identify individual giraffes, while monitoring field cameras, engaging with local communities, and removing poachers’ snares from the conservancy sites.
During the course of a year, over 1,000,000 images are captured by these cameras! Although placed to monitor giraffes, they also photograph many different species, from warthogs to lions!
This means millions of photos need sorting through to classify what each shot has captured, which is where you can help! An online citizen science project called Wildwatch Kenya was set up to allow anyone from around the world to review and help classify the images.
Once these images are classified, and along with data from collared giraffes, researchers can identify specific areas that are favoured by giraffes and start to look into why they prefer certain habitats. This information is critical in order to provide better protection to those areas, as well providing insight on where to focus any community outreach to help reduce poaching where people may be living closer to giraffes. “The faster we can sort through these images, the faster we understand what is needing to protect reticulated giraffe in these areas” – Jenna Stacy-Dawes, San Diego Zoo Global.
Click here if you would like to help classify some of the camera trap images from the field!