22 November 2016

Modern technology is enabling conservationists to develop new techniques that improve the accuracy and value of surveys and scientists are constantly developing new and better ways of monitoring species in the wild.

We’ve been working with partners in the field to help develop an impressive piece of software that will help identify an individual cheetah through its footprint. The software has been developed to support ecological large carnivore studies and monitor endangered elusive species in Africa.

The cheetahs at Chester Zoo played an important role in helping produce this complex piece of technology. By collecting digital cheetah footprint data the project has been able to develop the reference input algorithm for the software, producing a simple and non-invasive monitoring tool suitable for robust censusing of wild cheetah populations across Africa.

The footprints from the cheetahs at the zoo were used to test these software algorithms to make sure they were able to correctly identify individuals.

The technology was developed by WildTrack and similar footprint ID software has already been successfully developed for other carnivores such as tigers, lions, polar bears and pumas. The Footprint Identification Technique can identify the species, individual, age and even its sex, and is now available to cheetah researchers across the African continent, free-of-charge.

This is just another example of the important role zoos play in helping save endangered species; using science and technology to design better ways of monitoring species in the wild.