Citizen Scientists Classify Images for Conservation
Since June 2017, people from all over the world have embarked on a virtual safari to northern Kenya to help save giraffes. More than 15,000 volunteers have visited Wildwatch Kenya and helped classify photos from motion-activated trail cameras. To classify an image, volunteers count, identify, and track the wildlife they see. And they recently reached an incredible milestone: in just under two years, “Wildwatchers” processed more than one million images.
Photo classifications are a vital step in helping our research team understand giraffe populations. So far, more than 4,000 images of giraffes have been classified, with 175 of those images containing calves (babies). This data helps us identify where giraffes are found and allows us to update their range maps.
Living With Livestock
While we've collected an incredible number of giraffe images, the most numerous species identified in the photos—with more than 20,000 classifications—were domestic dogs and livestock animals, including camels, goats, sheep, cattle, and donkeys.
More than 95 percent of reticulated giraffe habitat is estimated to be outside of formally protected areas like conservancies and national parks. With so many images containing livestock animals, it reinforces the importance of understanding how giraffes, and other wildlife, survive alongside humans and domestic animals in this shared landscape.
The classification data helps us understand areas of high giraffe density compared to areas of high livestock density, as well as the displacement, if any, of giraffes by livestock. Ultimately, all this information will inform giraffe conservation decisions.
Classifications Benefit Other Species, Too
Images and knowledge gathered from Wildwatch Kenya also help increase community awareness and understanding of conservation. The Twiga Walinzi, a Kenyan-based research and conservation team, share photos and information with community members. Even though they live alongside wildlife, many Kenyans have never seen some of the rare and elusive animals that our trail cameras photograph. More than 40 species have been identified in the photos, including servals, leopards, and lions.
Wildwatch Kenya image classifications are not only providing crucial insight into giraffe populations, but have also contributed to research on other elusive or endangered species. Our trail camera photos have done much more than help us update range maps for giraffes—they've also helped update the range maps for hyenas and provided valuable information about other species, as well.
You Can Help Giraffes
While these discoveries and milestones are an incredible accomplishment, giraffes still need our help. Our trail cameras are still out there in the field, and there are lots more images to process. So put on your best safari gear (or relax in your pajamas), go to Wildwatch Kenya, and get started. You’ll be transported to the vast and breathtaking rangelands of northern Kenya—and you’ll be making a difference for giraffes.
Thank You, Wonderful Wildwatchers
A huge THANK YOU to all of the amazing Wildwatchers who have classified images, shared their favorite finds, and contributed to gathering this data! You are playing a vital role in conserving giraffes and other wildlife.