UPDATE : Thanks to you, we've surpassed our goal! Snapshot Serengeti is still running and awaiting your classifications. Check it out: snapshotserengeti.org
At this very moment in Serengeti National Park, hundreds of cameras are automatically taking photographs day and night, in corners of the park where tourists never go. These are camera traps – remote, automatic cameras that take pictures of passing wildlife – and they take some of the most amazing, natural and important photos of the Serengeti's animals. Our initial funding has run out, and we’re asking for your help so we can keep the cameras up and running for years to come.
We are a team of scientists studying the animal ecology of the Serengeti. Craig, Director of University of Minnesota’s Lion Research Center, has been studying Serengeti lions for over three decades. His work has been fundamental to understanding lion behavior, group living, and human-lion conflict, and to promoting lion conservation. Ali set up the camera traps to understand how lions share the Serengeti with the other large predators: hyenas, cheetahs, and leopards. Margaret is interested in using the camera trap images to learn how the Serengeti’s antelope balance the need to find food and to not get eaten themselves. Daniel and Stan have their feet on the ground in the Serengeti, tracking lions, replacing camera batteries, and making sure the project stays on track.
About the Camera Trap Pictures
Our camera traps capture over a million images of wildlife each year and we share them with you at SnapshotSerengeti.org. In fact, we rely on volunteers to help us identify the animals in each picture, because a million pictures is too much for us to handle! These pictures are taken automatically by our cameras and so have never been seen by anyone until they end up on the Snapshot Serengeti website, where anyone - including you! - can help us turn these photos into new scientific knowledge.
Some of the pictures are truly amazing, ranging from beautiful landscapes to intimate close-ups of lions and cheetahs, wildebeest and zebras. Some contain things that scientists and tour guides who spend entire careers in the Serengeti never see: porcupines mating, rare antelopes, bat-eared foxes chasing an aardwolf. And some images simply capture the grace and beauty of wild animals in their natural home.
All of these pictures help us to advance science and conservation by giving us information about where the animals go across the seasons and through the years. We are building on a wealth of information about lions that has been collected over the past half century. We radio-collar and track dozens of lions, so we know all about where the lions go and what they eat. Now we want to learn more about how lions coexist with all the other animals in the Serengeti. And that’s where the camera trap pictures come in.
We are answering questions like how large predators - lions, hyenas, cheetahs, and leopards – manage to live in the same area, even though they will kill each other if they get the chance. We are learning about how lions and other predators change their ranges when the great wildebeest migration passes through the area. And we want to understand how the many types of antelope try to find the best grass to eat, while avoiding getting eaten themselves.
What do we need?
It costs us about ten thousand dollars each month to keep our research going. Our current funding will run out in September, and so we need to raise $33k just to get us to the end of 2013. Here’s what we’ll do with that money:
- $6,800: Salary for the field assistants, Daniel and Stan.
- $4,000: Replacement camera traps. The problem with leaving your cameras outdoors with wild animals is that sometimes those animals find the cameras interesting. Hyenas bite them, elephants rip them off trees and stomp on them, wasps infiltrate them. So we need to replace them on a regular basis.
- $9,000: Vehicle Maintenance. Everything from fixing tires punctured by spiky plants to reconnecting broken exhaust systems. Our vehicles take a beating, as we drive off-road day in and day out.
- $9,000: Vehicle Fuel. It’s expensive out there and we have to cross hundreds of miles every week to survey the whole study area.
- $1,200: Rent. We rent a house in the Serengeti where we and the field assistants live. It doesn’t have running hot water, a working toilet, or air conditioning, but the scenery is great!
- $3,000: Indiegogo and Paypal fees, perk fulfillment