University of Botswana Leopard Citizen Science Project

University of Botswana Leopard Citizen Science Project

Leopards, while adaptive and successful feline predators and essential to the ecological chain, are experiencing a decline in abundance and distribution due to threats posed by habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, loss of prey and wildlife crime. Leopards currently occupy 25% of their historical range. Increased research efforts are critical to their conservation.

Objective

In order to guide conservation efforts, data must be gathered on the population sizes, distribution and demographic of leopards, which is difficult as they are naturally stealthy and elusive predators. This is where citizen science can contribute. Citizen science involves untrained citizens in the process of data acquisition and is increasingly being recognized as an effective method of research.

The project will take place in the surrounding areas of Xigera Safari Lodge and Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana. The project will seek to estimate populations of leopards and other carnivores and be conducted by Tlotlo Ndaba, a University of Botswana Master of Philosophy student, registered at the Okavango Research Institute.

Xigera guests will have the opportunity to participate in the study. One participating guest per game drive vehicle will be asked to wear a GPS device to track the route taken, and two participating guests will be asked to submit their photos at the end of their stay, adding greatly to the understanding of leopards in the region.

Impact

The data from the GPS devices will be combined with the photographs to determine and analyze the predator sightings. Ultimately, the predators in the vicinity of the lodge will be identified and the lodge will be provided with detailed maps of the territories.

The project will also test the validity of citizen science to record and monitor carnivore populations and determine whether participation in the project can lead to changes in participant behavior. Data will contribute to the wildlife monitoring goals for Botswana, providing valuable information on an important species.

UN GLOBAL GOALS

This project advances Global Goal 15: Life on Land and takes immediate action to protect and prevent the extinction of leopards, an at-risk species. The project promotes harmony between humans and animals by engaging the local community in citizen science.

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