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Citizen scientists help Rewilding Europe analyse camera trap photos

October 18, 2019

Wildlife enthusiasts can now contribute to rewilding efforts wherever they are. ZSL’s (Zoological Society of London) groundbreaking ‘Instant Wild’ platform allows everyone to collectively identify animals in camera trap photos. A research partnership with Rewilding Europe has already seen a wide range of species tagged in imagery from the Central Apennines rewilding area.

 

A badger is captured on a camera trap in the Central Apennines.

 

Spot on

What do wolves and wild boar, pine marten and porcupine all have in common? Yes, they are all animals found in the Central Apennines rewilding area. But more than this, they have all recently been spotted in camera trap photos from the area by netizens using ZSL’s free and pioneering Instant Wild platform and app.

The pilot collaboration between ZSL and Rewilding Europe has seen camera trap imagery from the Central Apennines rewilding area fed into Instant Wild since August. The initiative may soon be scaled up to include imagery from other Rewilding Europe areas.

“With camera trap photos and videos from locations around the world posted online, Instant Wild lets citizen scientists take part in vital global conservation work,” says Kate Moses, a project manager with ZSL’s Conservation Technology Programme. “We’re really excited to be working with Rewilding Europe and seeing Instant Wild advance the cause of rewilding.”

 

Open collaboration

Every day tens of thousands of photos are generated by camera traps, but it takes far longer to study each of these images and correctly identify any wildlife that may be present. Such cameras are widely employed across Rewilding Europe’s rewilding areas, which means many of our partner foundations have significant backlogs of photos that need processing.

Instant Wild features a feed of imagery uploaded from participating conservation projects around the world. In addition to the Central Apennines, this currently includes project based everywhere from Kenya and Borneo to Costa Rica and Croatia. Wildlife lovers simply visit the site and start identifying (account creation is optional). The use of a concensus algorithm means 10 people have to agree before an animal is definitively identified in a particular photo.

“What’s really great about Instant Wild is that users don’t need any qualifications or particular expertise to take part,” says Moses. “Help is provided and the community work together to make the right identification. There’s even a tutorial on our website.”

 

Rewilding impact

Would you be able to identify this camera trap-snapped animal as a wolf?

The results of the Instant Wild animal tagging are captured in a database and periodically shared with participating conservation projects, enabling better conservation-related decision making. In this way the data generated by the platform will have a beneficial impact on rewilding efforts in the Central Apennines.

“We will use it to understand the distribution of species that are hard to detect with traditional survey methods, such as wild cats and other small carnivores,” explains Piero Visconti, President of the Rewilding Apennines foundation. “We will also use it to understand how all wildlife uses the corridors that we are working on, and to plan specific conservation actions to safeguard these species.”

Red deer caught on camera in Central Apennines.

 

Win-win innovation

By harnessing the power of a global community of wildlife enthusiasts, Instant Wild allows conservation professionals to share their workload. But much more than this, it raises the profile of conservation efforts and wildlife, and means everyday netizens feel engaged in conservation projects around the world. Participating projects are regularly promoted on Twitter @InstantWild, while the community feel of Instant Wild is reinforced by areas devoted to comments.

“Those who choose to become involved in Instant Wild not only make a valuable contribution to conservation, they also get to share a window onto some of the world’s rarest, most amazing wildlife and some of its wildest places,” says Moses.

As well as helping to tag different animals from the Central Apennines rewilding area, Instant Wild users have screened the platform’s multi-project feed to successfully identify invasive species and packs of wolves, and helped to make accurate population estimates of a wide range of animal species.

 

Start tagging

What animal species will you help Rewilding Europe identify today? Visit the Instant Wild platform or download the app (iOS or Android) for free and make a contribution to European rewilding and global conservation today!

 

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