• 18 May 2017

Go on an Elephant Expedition (from the comfort of your home) and help their conservation

Elephants in Gabon

A photo taken by one of Cardoso's hidden cameras

The School of Geography and the Environment's DPhil candidate Anabelle W. Cardoso has launched a new citizen science elephant-counting project, in collaboration with Zooniverse.org this week. The new project entitled 'Elephant Expedition' is signing up members of the public to help identify and count the animals in the Central African rainforest of Gabon from the comfort of their own home, via the project website.

As part of her research into mega-herbivores (in particular elephants), fire, and the vegetation of Gabon's savanna-forest mosaic, Cardoso has set up a hidden network of motion- and heat-sensitive camera traps. Her cameras have already captured millions of images of animals walking around the Central African rainforest, which will now be made available online as part of the project.

The Elephant Expedition project is win-win, says Cardoso: "Citizen scientists will get to experience the wild life of Central Africa in a way they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to do," she explains, "At the same time, we will benefit from citizen scientists' excellent and accurate image analysis."

Better analysis means better science and, in Cardoso's case, this means helping to better conserve the endangered African forest elephant.

"Our primary interest is the endangered African forest elephant, but other rainforest animals like leopards, gorillas, and chimpanzees are commonly also captured in the camera traps."

With the data the citizen scientists are helping create, researchers will be able to better understand where the forest elephants are, when they're there, and how this affects, and is affected by, the surrounding vegetation. Relatively little is known about Gabon's endangered forest elephant (a relative of the savanna plains elephant) and this project is working towards remedying that.

"The more we understand about these elusive creatures, the better we can plan conservation strategies to better suit their needs," Anabelle says.

Anabelle Cardoso's DPhil research is supervised by Professor Yadvinder Malhi and Dr Imma Oliveras (both ECI), along with Kate Abernethy (University of Stirling) and William Bond (South African Earth Oberservation Network).

"The more we understand about these elusive creatures, the better we can plan conservation strategies to better suit their needs"

Anabelle W. Cardoso, DPhil Candidate, School of Geography and the Environment

Elephants in Gabon

A photo taken by one of Cardoso's hidden cameras

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