Since 2010, the camera trapping projects Snapshot Serengeti and Snapshot Safari have aimed to see what is often unobservable: the hidden lives and behaviors of Africa’s wildlife when humans are not around. With millions of photos from thousands of camera traps placed across Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique, researchers and citizen scientists are working together to understand the complicated behaviors and movements of animals in these protected areas’ varied ecosystems. The researchers' knowledge will expand further on February 5 as Snapshot Safari presents images collected at Karoo, Mountain Zebra, and Pilanesberg National Parks in South Africa.
“We’re excited to launch these new sites and better understand the behavior and interactions of wildlife within these biomes, which are unique to South Africa,” says Sarah Huebner, research manager for Snapshot Safari. “We’re already seeing fascinating images of lions hunting, baby elephants tagging behind their mothers, and predator-prey encounters that give us a broader scope of the ecological relationships in these parks.”
Snapshot Safari is a collaborative project between the University of Minnesota Lion Center and partners around the world that has already lead to the classification of more than 3.7 million images across the African continent. Citizen scientists are a key factor in processing such a large number of photos as they can help classify the animals and their behavior without researchers having to look at each individual photo.
“Citizen scientists are really the people that make these projects work,” says Huebner.
Snapshot Safari’s overarching goal is to find ways to protect and conserve the lives of some of Africa’s most iconic animals by gaining a deeper understanding of their behavior. With an expanded look at the ecological relationships of species ranging from lions and elephants to bustards and jackals, the team hopes they can identify and communicate best practices in animal conservation for years to come.
“Gaining as much insight into animal behavior as possible is critical to the survival of many of these species,” says Huebner. “Launching these three South African sites, the first of many to come, will help us gain further perspective on species threatened by human activities.”