Spot it, Report it
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) announced late last year it has developed a Carnivore Tracker app for both Apple and Android cellphones to tap into the vast potential of roaming observers to compile a more reliable database on the spatial and seasonal distribution of carnivores.
Calling this an exercise in Citizen Science, the CCF said it has developed a Carnivore Tracker application in collaboration with the Large Carnivore Management Association of Namibia (LCMAN). “Please report any carnivores you see on or near your land or during your travels through Namibia” is the special plea the CCF extended to all conservation-minded individuals who want to help protect all carnivores. The idea to enlist the help of the general public to improve reporting data was first introduced by the Percy Fitspatrick Institute of Ornithology at the University of Cape Town. The institute developed a cellphone app in collaboration with the compilers of the Southern African Bird Atlas to help keen birdwatchers identify and report bird species across the entire southern Africa. This produced a torrent of information since there are many thousands of birdwatchers across the sub-continent. It also improved the reference status of the digital Bird Atlas to live, or current. Previously, the atlas was published only once every ten years.
Announcing the local app, the CCF said “Carnivore Tracker enables members of the scientific community, farmers, tourists, and local residents to contribute to the collection of important distribution data and therefore to be directly involved in the conservation of Namibia’s wild carnivore species. The Carnivore Tracker is set up using the poster created by LCMAN showing photos of each of the 33 small, medium and large carnivores known in Namibia.”
Carnivore Tracker aims to utilise the growth in citizen science that allows research organisations to cover greater survey areas and significantly improve the rate of data collection and analysis. Combined with other monitoring techniques and human-carnivore conflict data, conservation action can be targeted to key areas to maximise effectiveness of resources and help secure the long-term future of all carnivores.
The information collected through Carnivore Tracker includes the species sighted, number of individuals and the GPS location, even outside of Wi-Fi and network coverage. Each carnivore species has a photographic icon for clear identification and a short description on its ecology and rarity. Every three months all Carnivore Tracker users will receive an update of carnivores which have been sighted and recorded. Relevant sightings will also be uploaded to the EIS mammal atlas at http://www.the-eis.com/atlas.php.