The Carnivore Tracker App is the first of its kind to gathers sightings (presence data) for all wild carnivores across Namibian at the touch of a button
Runs offline: yes (connection required to view data on the map and synchronize observations)
Last update: Android 17/10/2016 (v. 2.0.1) – iOS 14/08/2016 (v. 1.0.4)
Website of the developer Cheetah Conservation Fund
Notes: article updated on 07/12/2016 to correct some wrong aspects
Carnivore Tracker is a clear example of how using citizen science can be as simple as pushing a button. In the present case it is about notifying the observations of the main carnivores present in Namibia, but it is an application whose concept can be extrapolated to other areas of the planet.
Its operation is extremely simple:
- After opening a user account from the mobile device (the web has no registration option), a list with 33 species of iconic carnivores from Namibia is displayed. Each species has a small data sheet with a paragraph that mentions some distinctive detail of the animal (in the case of the cheetah, it remarks its running speed, being one of its more known characteristics), name scientific and denomination in the different dialects and local languages, status according to IUCN, habitat, diet, activity period (in the case of a diurnal or nocturnal animal), size, weight and social behavior.
- At the bottom of the tab are the button to report a sighting and a dropdown to indicate how many specimens are observed. The coordinates of the observation are extracted from the GPS of the mobile device (when you open the app for first time, it requests permission to access the location information). In addition to these data, the time, date and altitude are also automatically recorded. It also includes a dialog box to include annotations. It should be noted that Carnivore Tracker never share the specific GPS points, delaying the graphical display until 3 days with the aim of protect wildlife species.
- At the bottom (only if you have connection), you will see a map where the sighting areas of different species are represented graphically (also available on the website). The data are also accessible from the Atlasing in Namibia website.
- In the upper right corner of the application there is a drop-down menu through which you can access your account settings, the sightings you have recorded and information about the application and the project in which it is framed.
LCMAN Carnivore Tracker App (*.pdf, 456 kb)
Images: screenshots 05/12/2016. ©Cheetah Conservation Fund
The apps for collecting wildlife sightings on continents such as Africa arouse certain misgivings because some of them are considered as threats to wildlife, since warn poachers of the presence of valuable catches that after are sold on the black market at astronomical prices (the kilo of rhinoceros horn, for example, reaches $60 000, according to a recent article published on CNET). In opinion of some responsibles, these applications are also linked with traffic problems in some natural areas such as the Kruger National Park in South Africa, where authorities are considering banning such applications due to the increase in accidents and abuses they are (allegedly) causing, not taking into account that many of the incidents are related to an inappropriate behavior in which sometimes falls the own staff of the park (an excessive speed, for example).
However, applications like Carnivore Tracker have as objective to provide data about the biodiversity of an area, taking care of publishing exact coordinates or great detaild about the location of different species. Carnivore Tracker does not stand out by its striking design, but it is an agile application that possibly fulfills with its purpose in a correct way (this aspect has not been proven for geographical reasons). Regarding the phone number requested when you open an account (at least in the version for Android), the designer team of the app ensures that it is a system to guarantee the observations that are made, never using this personal data for other purposes. As an aspect to improve, it would also be advisable to include some tips on behavior that should be observed during the use of the application, remembering some basic safety measures and rules to avoid nuisances to animals.