Tourist photographs as a scalable framework for wildlife monitoring in protected areas

K. Rafiq, Caleb M. Bryce, Lindsey N. Rich, C. Coco, David A.W. Miller, C. Meloro, Serge A. Wich, John W. McNutt, Matthew W. Hayward

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Protected areas are critical to conservation efforts in the face of rapid biodiversity declines [1]. Yet the resources for conservation are often limited and shared amongst many competing priorities [2]. As a consequence, even basic monitoring surveys are absent within most protected areas [3]. Although a range of wildlife monitoring methods exist, considerable focused survey effort is often required to yield accurate and precise estimates [4]. This makes monitoring difficult to sustain or replicate, limiting access to the data required for evidence-based conservation decisions. Citizen-scientists have been proposed as an important complement to the finite resources available for basic monitoring within protected areas [5]; however, the full potential of this approach has yet to be realised. Wildlife tourists and guides are especially focussed on encountering and photographing fauna and flora, yet the data collected in these efforts is rarely harnessed for conservation monitoring within protected areas. A detailed understanding of photographic tourism's potential role in wildlife monitoring has been lacking, but is essential for the development of new tools to harness the data being collected through tourism. Here, we demonstrate that tourist-contributed data can aid wildlife monitoring in protected areas by providing population estimates of large carnivores comparable to those from traditional survey methods. Our approach could capitalize upon the immense number of wildlife photographs being taken daily as part of the global > 30-billion USD, wildlife-based tourism industry. Population monitoring is an important component of wildlife conservation. Rafiq et al. demonstrate that tourist photographs can provide cost-effective, robust measures of wildlife densities that could be used toward species conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R681-R682
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 22 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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