Wednesday, January 23, 2013

“I’m ready for my close up, Mr. Demille”

Photo id software for wildlife conservation

Understanding movements of individual animals is vital to biologists  and can lead to a better understanding of “social interactions, migratory routes, preferred habitats, behaviors within certain settings, life spans, and reproduction rates of various species” (GNB, 2013).

Some of the methods used include radio tagging, banding, notching, branding, and photo id. Most of the methods are labor intensive, expensive and are not guaranteed to stay in place due to outside circumstances.  Photo id is noninvasive and causes no behavioral changes that can occur with the other methods. However, getting good photos that can be compared is not easy.

A new software program, StripeSpotter, is becoming more widely used and more readily available. “With StripeSpotter, a computer program is able to identify individual zebras from a single photograph, field ecologists simply upload a digital photo of a particular animal’s flank. StripeSpotter then analyzes the pixels and assigns a “stripecode.” When a future photo of a zebra is uploaded, it’s run against the stripecode” (GNB, 2013).  The software is highly accurate and is currently being used in Kenya to track zebra.

According to researchers, the software is very useful because it is “tolerant of different sizes of animals in the images, exposure and mild perspective skews. It can be applied to any animal that has a coat with distinct markings. It provides feedback to the user about matching results”(Staeder, 2013).

The article related to the research of this type of photo id can be found here.


M. Lahiri, C. Tantipathananandh, R. Warungu, D.I. Rubenstein, T.Y. Berger-Wolf. Biometric Animal Databases from Field Photographs: Identification of Individual Zebra in the Wild. Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Multimedia Retrieval (ICMR 2011), Trento, Italy, 2011.

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