More than 225 automatic cameras have been set up in in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The cameras have been in operation since 2010, and are a major part of the Snapshot Serengei Project. More than 1.2 million images had been taken as a part of Snapshot Serengeti as the end of 2013.

Snapshot Serengeti Project Getting Global Attention

Zoologists note that the pictures have permitted then to observe the natural behavior and interactions of the Serengeti wildlife without human disturbance. Of note, all activities in the field of view are recorded in the images. This requires a large number of public volunteers to help classify all the images to make them useful to researchers

The ongoing research of Snapshot Serengeti Citizen Science project has recently been published in an academic paper in the journal Scientific Data.

More on the Snapshot Serengeti Project

Snapshot Serengei Project organizers point out that as well as enabling ongoing ecological research in the Serengeti, the huge database of images has uses in computer research.

Software developers need large well-annotated datasets they can use to “train” pattern-recognition systems, and the Serengeti images are ideal for this task.

Dr Ali Swanson and colleagues placed the cameras across 1,000 sq km of the Serengeti, attached to trees and metal posts. The cameras have infrared and motion sensor triggers, causing the camera to take a burst of up to three shots.

So far the Snapshot Serengeti community has managed to identify over 322,000 animals, distributed across 48 different species, from the image datasets.

Statement from U.S. researcher

Ecologists are excitedly examining the Serengeti photos to learn more about animal behaviors.

“For part of my dissertation, I looked at how lions and cheetahs divide up habitat hotspots on very fine timescales,” explained Dr Swanson, from the University of Minnesota. “The lions beat up cheetahs – they kill them, and steal their food. So, I was interested to see how cheetahs managed to co-exist given that the lions were so mean to them. And with the cameras, you can see how they avoid the lions, kind of in the moment, sneaking in just when the lions leave the scene.”