The "Snapshot Serengeti" project has collected over 1.2 million shots of animals using automated cameras in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota have teamed up with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to offer a refreshing take on the tired “selfie” photo trend that has barraged newsfeeds over the past few years. According to the BBC, the “Snapshot Serengeti” project used automated cameras to capture candid shots of hundreds of thousands of animals in their natural habitats.
The project collected over 1.2 million “burst events,” or series of three photos each time a motion or infrared sensor was activated by a passing animal. The cameras were set up between 2010 and 2013, and researchers identified 320,000 individuals from 48 distinct species in the photo sets.
The data allowed scientists to collect a wide range of ecological information. They witnessed firsthand the massive migrations of wildebeest and zebra herds across the Serengeti’s great plains. They also snapped shots of more elusive creatures, like the zorilla and the aardwolf.
The team also observed some interesting behaviors towards the cameras. Herbivores tended to just rub up against the camera, and hyenas were observed chewing through the attachment securing the camera to posts and trees. In a few rare instances, elephants were shown ripping the camera from its place and hurling it across the ground.
The researchers also learned that lions can be quite unkind to their predatory feline cousins. They were observed chasing and attacking cheetahs and stealing their food on multiple occasions.
The project had a different purpose as well – to test a new computer algorithm that could draw patterns out of massive photosets like the ones collected in the Serengeti. The 225 cameras were spread out across more than 1000 square kilometers.
The large annotated dataset collected by the project will be used to “train” computers to recognize patterns in photographs. While the project has produced some stunning images of rare animals in their wild habitat, these will unfortunately be the last photos to be released by the “Snapshot Serengeti” project – it is about to run out of funding.