Giraffes Count!

What better way to honor World Giraffe Day on June 21 than to share some of our Wildwatch Kenya project results. With over half a million trail camera images now classified and retired, we have some very exciting information to share!

First off, we would like to thank our dedicated citizen scientist volunteers who helped us produce these results. Without all of you, it would have taken a full-time research assistant 5 years to classify each of these 500,000 images 10 times, as is the protocol on Zooniverse.

Wildwatch Kenya is San Diego Zoo Global’s citizen science project. The pictures are collected in Kenya, but people from around the world help our researchers by analyzing images and noting animals seen. Find out more and add your eyes to the effort at Wildwatch Kenya.

For the first time since the Wildwatch Kenya reticulated giraffe project began, we are able to analyze the data collected from our trail cameras in northern Kenya.

Of the images that have been classified so far, our citizen scientists agreed that 2,765 images contained giraffes. Our results show that giraffe ranked among the top five most frequently seen species, following dik dik, zebra, impala, and gazelle. We were also able to extract the locations of these 2,765 images that most likely contained giraffes by linking the images back to the trail camera that they came from. This provides valuable information about where giraffes are most commonly found, what types of habitat they prefer, and where they are occurring in proximity to human activity. The maps below (see slide show) show the trail camera locations that were classified to have images of giraffes.

Spotting a baby animal while classifying images is one of the most exciting parts about Wildwatch Kenya (for both our citizen scientists and us researchers!). By looking at the number of young that are present, we can gain insight to a whole host of new information such as birth rates and breeding seasons. We can even get clues on the impact of environmental stressors such as drought and predation on survival rates of young by seeing if they are able to survive until adulthood.

With your help, we have produced sound scientific data, which will supplement information needed to analyze the current populations of species in northern Kenya. We hope that it will lead to increased protection and conservation of reticulated giraffes and other wildlife. Now, that’s the power of citizen science!

With over one million images still to go, we need your help now more than ever! Keep up the great work, and thank you—asante sana, as they say in Swahili—for your help in saving species.

Editor’s Note: This is an abridged version of a more in-depth look at the data collected to date. For more details, images, and maps, read A Wild, Wild Watch in Kenya on our San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research site.

Jenna Stacy-Dawes is a research coordinator for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. Read her previous blog, Wildwatch Kenya: Preliminary Results from the Field.

Nikki Egna is a research assistant.