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Updated 23 October 2013

Use your wildlife pics for conservation

Wildlife sightings are good for the soul, and even more satisfying when you get a pic. But those photos can have a larger purpose too: mapping Africa's mammals.

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It’s a thrill to spot a caracal crossing the path on Lion’s Head (as I did a couple of months ago); a thrill invariably followed by a spasm of regret if you don’t get a photo. Wildlife photos, apart from their excellent function of proving your sighting to your friends, can also be used for conservation.

The starting point for conserving an animal is to know where it is, and in what numbers. This may sound obvious but it’s not at all: as our cities, roads and farms keep spreading and dicing up the landscape, so wildlife populations dwindle and become more scattered. Animals in reserves don’t always stay there, either.

All this makes it very tricky for zoologists and conservation managers to keep track of wildlife populations; they need all the help they can get. MammalMap is a database of African mammals, compiled from reliable records like photographs and camera trap images supplied by professionals and wildlife enthusiasts.

You need a digital camera or smartphone which records and displays the date and location of the photo (most have the former but not all have the latter, so check). Then, register and upload your photo.

MammalMAP is jointly run by the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town, and the Mammal Research Insitute (MRI) at the University of Pretoria.

The ADU has similar citizen scientist projects for collecting data on non-mammal species too – birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. I’ll be featuring more of these in future Green Tips.

Got a good green tip or event to share? Email me at oroseinn@sa.24.com or post on the EnviroHealth Forum. If it's a planet-saver, we'll publish it.

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