Go on safari in Africa without leaving home

Go on safari in Africa without leaving home

A lion cub

An elephant’s trunk

A hippo’s behind caught on the hidden cameras in the Serengti

Chris Lintott

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by

EVER fancied going on safari from the comfort of your own living room?

Now a project has started to help armchair wildlife enthusiasts do just that.

Millions of Africa’s animals are being spotted and identified for an Oxford project by people sitting at home.

Lions, zebras, giraffes and elephants are among the beasts being named for the online venture called Snapshot Serengeti.

The project includes a website which teaches anyone to become citizen scientists and identify the Tanzanian Serengeti’s animals.

It aims to help a team of lion experts in America track their movements and relationships with other animals in the Serengeti.

The project is being organised by Oxford University researcher Chris Lintott, who was asked for help by the team from the University of Minnesota Lion Project.

The photos come from 225 motion-sensitive cameras installed across the Serengeti National Park which monitor 24 lion prides.

Animals snapped in 742,585 photos taken from 2010 until 2012 are all being named by wildlife fans across Oxfordshire and around the world.

Each photo will be viewed multiple times, meaning the results should be accurate.

The project aims to track 30 species of animals in Africa to find out more about the relationship between them and the lions.

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Mr Lintott, 32, said: “It’s very addictive actually, you’ve got to watch out. I’ve lost hours to the site naming the animals I can see on virtual safari. I’ve seen lions, and a nice shot of an elephant’s trunk. I haven’t seen a decent giraffe yet though so I’m going to keep going until I do. I’ve seen giraffe legs, but not the whole thing. My favourite though is the aardwolf.

“It is incredible how popular it has become. We ran a similar project in 2010 asking people to identify things in space so we knew animals would work and attract quite a few.

“It’s a really good way for scientists with too much data to get some help.”

Mr Lintott, from the University’s Department of Physics, originally set up Galaxy Zoo in 2007 to give people a chance to classify some of the millions of galaxies.

The curator of the Cotswold Wildlife Park near Burford, Jamie Craig, said the latest project was a brilliant idea.

Mr Craig, 40, said: “It will provide a lot of information about their behaviour pattern. We don’t have quite as much trouble here counting all of the animals and keeping tabs on them.

“And at the moment we only have one female lion, Akele, until some others arrive. But we use camera traps around the park too. It’s a better way of doing things because they act so differently when there aren’t people around.

“You can find out how they act with other animals and at night. Sometimes they glance at the camera. The animals know it’s there, but it doesn’t make them uneasy or nervous.”

To get involved, see snapshotserengeti.org

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