A new approach to monitoring endangered species
Species are disappearing at between 100 and 1000 times background rates, under our watch.
Incredibly, for many endangered species, scientists still have little idea of exactly where they range, and what threatens them, either at the local scale, or the landscape scale. Clearly these data are essential if we are to help conserve them, and protect what remains of their natural habitat.
ConservationFIT is a unique new project from WildTrack.
Our approach is different. We think of it as ‘Conservation from the ground up’.
What’s different about it? We use data that drove the evolution of humanity; footprints! Early human evolution was driven by skill in hunting and avoiding predators, and those skills were all to do with understanding footprints. Our award-winning and patent-pending Footprint Identification Technique, developed by close observation of expert indigenous trackers in Africa, has borrowed from that ancient art and science, and adapted it for modern technology. Wherever an endangered species leaves footprints, we can use those prints to learn about it.
Using simple digital images with complex statistical algorithms, FIT can identify the species, individual, sex and age-class of the animal that made them. These data allow us to figure where many endangered species are, and how best we can help them. To date we have developed FIT algorithms for 15 endangered species ranging from rhino to dormouse.
The way we collect our data is part of a new movement set to transform science.
We’re not just a group of scientists in an ivory-tower. We’re reaching out to global citizens in all walks of life, with every kind of skill and experience, to engage with us in helping resolve the species crisis by collecting data with us. If you carry a smartphone and see a footprint, you can be part of the solution to this crisis!
Do enough people see animal footprints? Well, there are around 8 billion visits to protected areas around the world each year! If ConservationFIT can engage just a small percentage of these groups, imagine the data points we could place on the map? Add to those all the people who live in non-protected areas, where many endangered species are just managing to survive. With the right data, we can help protect them and engage better support for the communities that live alongside them.
If you work in field conservation project, you’re a tracker, you work at a zoo or you’re someone whose work or recreational activity sometimes leads them into contact with animal footprints – you can help populate our global species map and connect with other like-minded groups to improve the conservation of endangered species.
Through our new ConservationFIT site, we’ll help you to collect footprints, analyze the footprints you submit to our site, develop FIT algorithms for species, map the animals you’ve helped identify and then work with field projects to help them implement the technique for monitoring.
Take a tour through our site here: (in progress).