The Methodology and Importance of Identifying Individuals in Conservation
Zingela is a 500,000 HA reserve located in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. It is debated as to the number of species of Giraffe that Africa is home to, however the population as a whole has decreased by 40% over the past 30 years. Our research focuses on the Southern giraffe; 20 of which were introduced to Zingela in the 1990s. Since then, their numbers at Zingela and the surrounding reserves have increased to what is estimated to be over 100 individuals – however, actual population size is currently unknown. As with any conservation effort, our first step was to investigate abundance and distribution to allow us to determine what action to take next.
Our aim was to calculate an approximate population size through the use of photo recognition software to identify individuals, photos were taken by cameras out in the field and then collating data back at camp. We also used our findings to create an identikit to allow us – and other visitors to Zingela – to spot individuals, track their movements and contribute to the future of their conservation. We also visited Emaweni camp, an area adjacent to our main study site, to see how the distribution of giraffe differ to those in Zingela.