Here’s how your holiday photos could help save endangered species


Kasim Rafiq, Liverpool John Moores University

Animal populations have declined on average by 60% since 1970, and it’s predicted that around a million species are at risk of extinction. As more of the Earth’s biodiversity disappears and the human population grows, protected landscapes that are set aside to conserve biodiversity are increasingly important. Sadly, many are underfunded – some of Africa’s most treasured wildlife reserves operate in funding deficits of hundreds of millions of dollars.

In unfenced wilderness, scientists rarely have an inventory on the exact numbers of species in an area at a particular time. Instead they make inferences using one of many different survey approaches, including camera traps, track surveys, and drones. These methods can estimate how much and what kind of wildlife is present, but often require large amounts of effort, time and money.

Camera traps are placed in remote locations and activated by movement. They can collect vast quantities of data by taking photographs and videos of passing animals. But this can cost tens of thousands of dollars to run and once in the wild, cameras are at the mercy of curious wildlife.

Track surveys rely on specialist trackers, who aren’t always available and drones, while promising, have restricted access to many tourism areas in Africa. All of this makes wildlife monitoring difficult to carry out and repeat over large areas. Without knowing what’s out there, making conservation decisions based on evidence becomes almost impossible.

Citizen science on Safari

Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in the world – 42m people visited sub-Saharan Africa in 2018 alone. Many come for the unique wildlife and unknowingly collect valuable conservation data with their phones and cameras. Photographs on social media are already being used to help track the illegal wildlife trade and how often areas of wilderness are visited by tourists.

Despite this, tourists and their guides are still an overlooked source of information. Could your holidays snaps help monitor endangered wildlife? In a recent study, we tested exactly this.

Partnering with a tour operator in Botswana, we approached all guests passing through a safari lodge over three months in the Okavango Delta and asked them if they were interested in contributing their photographs to help with conservation. We provided those interested with a small GPS logger – the type commonly used for tracking pet cats – so that we could see where the images were being taken.

We then collected, processed, and passed the images through computer models to estimate the densities of five large African carnivore species – lions, spotted hyaenas, leopards, African wild dogs and cheetahs. We compared these densities to those from three of the most popular carnivore survey approaches in Africa – camera trapping, track surveys, and call-in stations, which play sounds through a loudspeaker to attract wildlife so they can be counted.

The tourist photographs provided similar estimates to the other approaches and were, in total, cheaper to collect and process. Relying on tourists to help survey wildlife saved up to US$840 per survey season. Even better, it was the only method to detect cheetahs in the area – though so few were sighted that their total density couldn’t be confirmed.

Thousands of wildlife photographs are taken every day, and the study showed that we can use statistical models to cut through the noise and get valuable data for conservation. Still, relying on researchers to visit tourist groups and coordinate their photograph collection would be difficult to replicate across many areas. Luckily, that’s where wildlife tour operators could come in.

Tour operators could help collect tourist images to share with researchers. If the efforts of tourists were paired with AI that could process millions of images quickly, conservationists could have a simple and low-cost method for monitoring wildlife.

Tourist photographs are best suited for monitoring large species that live in areas often visited by tourists – species that tend to have high economic and ecological value. While this method perhaps isn’t as well suited to smaller species, it can still indirectly support their conservation by helping protect the landscapes they live in.

The line between true wilderness and landscapes modified by humans is becoming increasingly blurred, and more people are visiting wildlife in their natural habitats. This isn’t always a good thing, but maybe conservationists can use these travels to their advantage and help conserve some of the most iconic species on our planet.The Conversation

Kasim Rafiq, Postdoctoral Researcher in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Liverpool John Moores University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Planning and Organising a Holiday Using Evernote

The link below is to an article that looks at planning and organising a holiday by using Evernote.

For more visit:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 11 – Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

It was a fairly easy day for my last day at Watarrka National Park. All I had left to do was walk the very short Kathleen Springs Walk, which only took about 1 hour to complete. It was a reasonably short drive to this section of Watarrka National Park and the walk itself was also very easy. Still, it was an early start considering just how little I had to do.

ABOVE: View from the Beginning of the Walk

ABOVE: Old Cattle Yards   BELOW: Wildflowers

ABOVE: Waterhole at the End of the Gorge   BELOW: Old Cattle Yards

Having returned to camp following the walk, I once again had a very early main meal for the day while the campsite was quiet and found that again there was no water for a lengthy period, and once again no communication from site management that the water was being turned off. Eventually I was able to clean up my gear and settle down for a lazy afternoon reading and chatting. I also made sure I had ready everything I could for the big move to Alice Springs the next day, which was going to start very early the following morning.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers

The distance travelled on this day was 52 km – giving me a total of 3516 km for the whole trip to this point.

ABOVE: Camp Site at Kings Canyon Resort

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, and without the Internet, getting the photos ready to upload.

View the Photos at:

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 10 – Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

It was a fairly straight-forward type of day today. It was an early, short drive to Watarrka National Park from Kings Canyon Resort, where I did the Kings Canyon Rim Walk. The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is a spectacular exploration of the the area above the gorge and also descends into the gorge to an area known as ‘The Garden of Eden.’ It is a 6km return walk, with some moderate to difficult sections, especially at the beginning with the climb to the gorge rim. Surprisingly the walk was completed in about 3 hours, even allowing for a bit of sightseeing along the way.

ABOVE & BELOW: Scenery from the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

ABOVE & BELOW: Scenes from the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

Having completed the walk and once again not being able to use the free wifi point at Watarrka National Park I travelled back to Kings Canyon Resort for a very early main meal (while the resort was fairly quiet) and to spend a relaxing afternoon chatting with other campers and reading. A couple of guys I had met at Uluru turned up for a couple of days, so it was good to chat with them a bit also.

ABOVE & BELOW: The Garden of Eden

The distance travelled on this day was 19 km – giving me a total of 3464 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, and without the Internet, getting the photos ready to upload.

ABOVE: Scene from the Kings Canyon Rim Walk

View the Photos at:

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 9 – Yulara to Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory

It was an early start as I headed of for Watarrka National Park, for a morning that was going to be spent driving and then hopefullly setting up my campsite, before heading off for a quick walk at Watarrka National Park. My first stop was at Curtain Springs for a quick top up of the fuel, knowing that fuel was going to be expensive at Kings Canyon Resort. So after that stop it was basically nothing but driving straight to Watarrka National Park and the Kings Canyon Resort.

ABOVE: Mount Conner as Seen Along the Way to Watarrka National Park

When I arrived there were no powered campsites available as the place was pretty busy and booked out. It turned out that the Variety Bash was in the area and staying at the resort that night. It was a very crowded scene and somewhat chaotic. I managed to grab a campsite without power, set up and decided to escape to the national park for a while.

At Watarrka National Park I noticed that there was a free wifi hot spot at a shelter at the beginning of the walks. This seemed like a good thing, given that I had no Internet access at the resort. However, this proved to be near useless as nothing was able to load. It was pretty bad when more than one person was trying to access it, let alone a whole group of people. It barely worked for one! So that proved to be of no real benefit to me.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers were a feature of Kings Creek Walk

ABOVE: Wildflowers were a feature of Kings Creek Walk   BELOW: Kings Creek Walk

I decided I didn’t really have the time to do the rim walk and actually enjoy it at the same time, so I decided to start on that one early the next morning. Instead I chose to do the Kings Creek Walk, which was a comfortable 2 km return walk following Kings Creek into the canyon. It proved to be a far better walk than I had anticipated, so given I had a bit of time to play with I took my time and really enjoyed it. There wasn’t a lot of water around, but it was still a great experience and I did find a waterhole just beyond the end of the walk.

ABOVE: View From the Kings Creek Walk

ABOVE & BELOW: Kings Creek

ABOVE: Budgerigars Nesting Along Kings Creek

With the completion of the walk I returned to the resort to find I was unable to get a park next to my tent, which to be honest, really annoyed me. The resort has very poor parking facilities for campers – in fact, there was a lot about the resort that I found disappointing. The camp kitchen was terrible and the equipment poorly maintained, as was the case in both the laundry and ammenities block. Indeed, for a couple of days during my stay there was no water available across the site for hours at a time and no communication provided for visitors as to what was happening. I guess when you have a monopoly on services you can get away with pathetic service and conditions. Then of course there were the prices in the shop and the fuel price ($2.02 a litre for ULP). When I surveyed the shop my mouth dropped at the prices. It was $6.50 or $7.50 for a 1.25 litre bottle of coke and around $8.00 for a packet of Tim Tams. Everything was priced highly. It became a bit of a talking point around the tents each evening, with various plans for opening pop-up shops at the entrance of the park to sell various items at reduced prices.

I booked in and paid for 3 nights when I arrived and soon realised that I had made a mistake. Two nights would have been more than sufficient to do all that I had planned at Watarrka National Park – Kings Creek Walk, Kings Canyon Rim Walk and Kathleen Springs. So I planned to do one each day and then do some reading each afternoon. I also got to know a few people around camp which helped to pass the time also, which helped as I do like to get on with things and sitting around while travelling seems to be such a waste of time, especially when it took me so long to get to the Territory. I like to get to see as much as I can in the time I have available, so that extra night proved a very frustrating thing to me.

The distance travelled on this day was 320 km – giving me a total of 3445 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, and without the Internet, getting the photos ready to upload. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the Kings Canyon Rim Walk before me.

View the Photos at:

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 8 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

It was a much later start today, with just some short walks to knock over before a fairly relaxing afternoon. Before I started the walks I stopped at the Uluru Sunset Viewing Area to collect a couple of shots of Uluru.

ABOVE: Uluru in the Early Morning

The first of the two walks for this morning was the Liru Walk. The Liru Walk connects Uluru with the Cultural Centre and can be walked from either location. I started at Uluru because it would also be the starting point for the Mala Walk, the second walk I would be doing this morning. The Liru Walk is a 4 km return walk which is flat and easy, making its way through the low woodland and wildflower covered region between the Rock and the Cultural Centre. It was a visual feast of wildflowers during my visit.

ABOVE & BELOW: Wildflowers of the Liru Walk

With the Liru Walk completed, I headed off to repeat the Mala Walk, which I had completed as part of the Uluru Base Walk 2 days before. I wanted to do the walk again because it was very crowded on the previous occasion and Uluru seemed much quieter at the moment and it indeed proved so. Still, there were some ‘yahoos’ about and I did mention something to someone about how all that spoiled the experience of the place. Little did I know at the time that the woman I mentioned that to was the mother of the teenagers carrying on like idiots and they were soon told to quieten down. I think all present were pleased with the result. I suspect the Mala Walk is probably the best part of the area around Uluru itself, with its natural beauty and its cultural importance also, it being an important location for the Aboriginal people.

ABOVE: Scenery from the Mala Walk   BELOW: Rock Art on the Mala Walk

ABOVE & BELOW: Kantju Gorge – Part of the Mala Walk

The distance travelled on this day was 43 km – giving me a total of 3125 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for an early start the next morning, with the trip over to Watarrka National Park and the Kings Canyon Resort.

View the Photos at:

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at:

Red Centre Holiday 2016: Day 7 – Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

ABOVE: Sunrise at Uluru

It was an early morning yet again as I prepared for a sunrise viewing of Uluru. This morning I was heading off to Talinguru Nyakunytjaku to catch the Uluru sunrise at either the Minymaku platform or the Watiku platform. When I arrived I was a little surprised by the number of people that turned up (not that I should have been really) and both platforms were soon packed like sardine cans. However, I soon found what I thought was a much better spot anyway, on the edge of one of the trails below the Watiku platform. Then I discovered that I had forgotten to put the battery for my camera in the camera after I had recharged my camera overnight. Thankfully the batteries were in my car so I was able to quickly correct the problem and return prior to sunrise. It wasn’t long though before other people decided I knew a thing or two about location and decided to relocate to my general position. Before long it was a case of people trying to push their way in front of me and generally bustle me – not that they got too far with that approach as I refused to give ground to them. It was actually beginning to become ‘unpleasant’ between some leading protagonists. In the end most of us got the shots we were after without the need to resort to overt rudeness.

ABOVE: Sunrise at Uluru   BELOW: Wildflowers at Walpa Gorge

With sunrise done, it was off for the drive to Kata Tjuta, or as they are also known, the Olgas. It’s about 50 to 60km from Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, but well worth the journey. Indeed, in my opinion Kata Tjuta is a far better experience than Uluru. But as I have said before, every location has something different to offer and I enjoyed every one I went to over my holiday.

ABOVE: Early Morning at Walpa Gorge

First stop at Kata Tjuta was Walpa Gorge, which is a fairly short walk overall and quickly completed. It is a 2.6 km return walk, in and out of Walpa Gorge as the name probably suggests. It was still quite cold when I arrived and still early in the morning. There were very dark shadows being cast over the gorge by the massive domes that are Kata Tjuta. On the walk however, the heat that was being radiated from the domes was quite noticeable, having obviously retained heat from the previous day. A beautiful spot and well worth the visit – though I was keen to get onto the next walk, which is my favourite at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The Valley of the Winds is truly a magnificent experience and walk. It is a 7.4 km challenging circuit walk that takes about 3 hours to complete. There are two lookouts along the trail – the Karu Lookout (after 1.1km) and the Karingana Lookout (after 2.7km). Both provide incredible views, yet it could be argued that the entire walk is one great vista. I enjoy almost every bushwalk I embark on, but there are some that really rank highly in my estimation. There is the Grand High Tops Walk in Warrumbungle National Park, especially if you are able to tie Bluff mountain and Mount Exmouth into it as well. Actually, the more I think about it the more walks I want to include in my ‘highly estimated’ walks, but the Valley of the Winds has to be up there as well. I would have to include Kings Canyon Rim Walk and Ormiston Gorge among those walks also now I guess. Those brilliant walks were yet to come on this holiday.

ABOVE: View from Karingana Lookout – Valley of the Winds

As breath-taking as the Valley of the Winds is, it would probably be a terrible place to be in the height of summer. It was late winter and already very hot. I did see a couple of people not really coping with the walk. I can just imagine how many people come to grief to some degree in the hotter months. I found the walk to be a very pleasant and comfortable one in itself, let alone with all that there was to experience while on it around about me.

ABOVE: Valley of the Winds Walk   BELOW: View from the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area

After the Valley of the Winds it was a short drive to the Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area, which provides some spectacular views of Kata Tjuta and of Uluru in the distance. There is a short 600m walk up to the viewing platform – all very easy. A visit to Kata Tjuta should always include a visit here.

The day’s activities were all over fairly early in the afternoon for me, so it was back to camp to enjoy some quiet time and relaxation, get a bit of washing done and generally rest, read and the like.

The distance travelled on this day was 150 km – giving me a total of 3082 km for the whole trip to this point.

When it got dark, once again, it was the usual ‘house keeping’ before bed – updating the daily journal, reviewing the holiday budget, checking in on social media, and editing and uploading photos. Then it was off to bed for a later start the next morning, with just the Liru and Mala Walks on the agenda.

View the Photos at:

Visit the Red Centre Holiday 2016 web page at: