In early May, a team of two from the Taronga Conservation Society in Australia spent 11 days working with rangers in Sera to establish a photographic database of individual reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra inside the 107 km2 Sera Rhino Sanctuary.
Terrestrial biologist Peter Harlow and zookeeper Jordan Michelmore took more than 2,000 images during their time with the Sera team. This photographic database will help Sera Conservancy and the NRT Monitoring and Evaluation team estimate how many individual giraffes and zebras live within the sanctuary, and monitor the population growth over the coming decades.
The endangered Grevy’s zebra is found only in northern Kenya and Ethiopia, with a wild population of about 2500, while numbers of the ‘vulnerable’ reticulated giraffe total about 8,500.
From the photos, each giraffe and zebra can be identified by their unique individual patterns using individual recognition software.
“Each individual species of wildlife has a unique marker of patterns be it for reticulation when it comes to the giraffe or stripes for the Zebras and spots for the cheetahs," says Peter. "The markers are unique to the individual animal just like humans and their fingerprints,”
It is this uniqueness that is photographed and fed into computer software known as Hotspotter that creates a database useful for identification and abundance monitoring of the population of species.
“It is not only accurate but cost-effective in comparison aerial and ground surveys, all you need is a lean team of one or two photographers, and the work is done,” says Jordan.
Taronga Zoo is not for profit organization based in Sydney Australia supporting wildlife conservation in partnership with the Northern Rangelands Trust.