A Citizen Science Survey of Cheetahs & Leopards in Etosha​ National Park 

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In the realm of wildlife conservation and management, accurately estimating species population sizes and structures is essential. This is particularly crucial for keystone species, such as large carnivores, as they play a pivotal role in ecosystems due to their position at the top of the food chain. Comprehending carnivore ecology, behaviour, and population dynamics within protected areas is especially pertinent to conservation efforts. It also enhances our ability to mitigate conflicts with human populations residing in the surrounding areas of these areas.

Reliable population estimates for lions, spotted hyaenas, cheetahs and leopards in Namibia’s flagship Etosha National Park, are still lacking. This recognition called the Greater Etosha Carnivore Programme into life; a collaboration between Ongava Research Centre, the Etosha Ecological Institute and others, to try and address this knowledge gap by conducting large-scale surveys in the Park in 2024.

Carnivores are notoriously difficult to count due to their wide-ranging behaviours, nocturnal habits, elusive nature and low densities. Fortunately, methods to monitor population sizes have been relatively well developed. Cheetahs and leopards have unique coat patterns, which allows for individual identification from direct observation or from photographs. The aim of our Master's student, Mburae Keja (registered at Namibia University of Science and Technology), will be to use individual identification to produce the first population size estimates for these two spotted cat species in Etosha.

Therefore, we invite all visitors to Etosha National Park to share their photographs of cheetahs and leopards to help us achieve our goal.

We call on all visitors to Etosha to share their photographs of cheetahs and leopards with us so we can achieve our mission.

Every animal seen between the 1st of June 2024 and the 31st of May 2025 counts!

You can submit your observations here: Survey form . You will be asked to provide some details about your observation, such as date, location, and the number of animals in the group and to share your email address with us so we can contact you if we need to (no spamming, promise). You can also simply send us an email with all the information about your sighting(s) at etosha.census@orc.eco   (one email per observation please). Your images will then be processed using a specialised Artificial Intelligence (AI) platform, the African Carnivore Wildbook .

Image submission will be open until 31st December 2025.

Image Guidelines: What We Need to identify the animals

For identification purposes, high-quality images capturing clear views of the animal's flanks are preferred. If you can provide images of both sides, this is the holy grail for us! Group pictures are also important to help us identify social relationships and cub survival rates. Profile (side) portraits are also valuable.

However, frontal portraits are not ideal as the front of the face doesn’t show many unique features. Images of animals where most of their body is obstructed, such as when lying down, behind vegetation or walking away, are not particularly valuable either. The AI pattern recognition algorithm requires a clear contract to be able to do its job. Hence, pixelated pictures resulting from low resolution images or from the animal being too small in the frame will not be very helpful either.