Software for camera traps

Camera-trap surveys result in overwhelming amounts of data which can be difficult to process, but we are introducing software to make conservation more efficient. 

Camera trap efficiency 

Data processing is often slow, with multiple, laborious data manipulations resulting in incomplete analysis and delayed reporting. The lack of centralised data storage systems and efficient image processing and data analysis tools is hampering monitoring efforts and conservation outcomes. Hence, the challenge has moved from data acquisition to data management, analysis and interpretation.

We're developing a proprietary state of the art camera-trap package for managing and processing large volumes of image data efficiently and reliably, translating this information into standardised outputs for monitoring the status of wildlife species and communities and the threats impacting them.

The system can help form the basis for effective long-term wildlife monitoring of conservation areas. It will allow conservation organisations to evaluate quickly and reliably the impact of law enforcement and other management interventions.

It also has the potential to provide much needed data to feed into national biodiversity strategy and action plans (NBSAPs) and to contribute to regional and global CBD indicators such as the Living Planet Index and Red List Index

Our SMART camera trap tool

Camera trap image of an Asian elephant drinking from a body of water
A photo of a Bengal tiger walking away from a camera trap
© DNPWC / NTNC / Panthera / ZSL

Camera trap features

The current version 1 of the package has the following key features:

  • Configurable data model with standardised country / regional species templates
  • Image filtering (by species, cameras etc.), checking and editing 
  • Exporting of tables, charts and maps in Excel, Word, csv, xml formats  
  • Survey effort reports

Species outputs: 

  • Species list (taxonomically ordered with information on habitat, habit, tropic level, adult body weight, average home range, IUCN Red List threat status)
  • Rarefaction curves and species richness estimates
  • Trapping rates (overall and daily / seasonal)
  • Occupancy and detection probability estimates with option to model with up-to five site covariates
  • Activity plots (radial and bar plots)
  • Distribution maps on camera-trap grids in Google Earth, QGIS and ArcGIS (via ArcReader).

The following features would be available in version 2 of the package: 

  • Image metadata processing tool
  • Population density estimates for marked animals (spatially explicit capture-recapture modelling)
  • Population density estimates for unmarked animals 
  • Analysis of movement patterns and home ranges
  • Activity level modelling 
  • Diversity measures
  • Species community structure analyses 
  • Statistical tests (chi-square, circular statistics etc.)
  • Cross survey analyses 
  • Standardised reports generation in Word and RTF. 

The package is already being used at ZSL to centrally manage and process survey data and generate standardised reports for conservation management. ZSL has been helping with systematic camera-trap surveys across a range of sites and habitats including desert systems (Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, Niger, Chad), grassland systems (India, Nepal, South Africa) and forest systems (Kenyan coastal forests, Cameroon, Liberia, Guinea, Thailand, Indonesia, Russia). We are also integrating camera-trap monitoring with SMART patrolling to provide measures of management impact on conservation goals. We have developed extensive training material, standardised protocols and field training course in camera-trap survey design, field set-up, data management and analysis. 

Tiger spotted in tiger at night on camera trap - first time in four years in Western Thailand
A camera trap image of two elephants in a forest

Camera trap in action

Mammal diversity survey in the northern coastal forests of Kenya 


This report summarises the findings of seven camera trap surveys set up in the forests of the northern coast of Kenya, in two different key areas; the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, and in and around the more northern Boni-Dodori forest system. These sites are all representative of the coastal forests of the Eastern Africa biodiversity hotspot. The main study objective was to establish baseline data on the medium-to-large sized mammal communities of the northern group of forests as part of developing a longer term conservation and management plan for the area. Four surveys were carried out in 2010, and three surveys carried out in 2015. The combined species results are presented here. 

Aders' duiker caught on a camera trap
Sand cat captured in camera trap

Animals surveyed in camera trap

The more northern coastal forests (Boni-Dodori region) recorded higher terrestrial mammal species richness than Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. The majority of medium-to-large mammal species were recorded much more frequently in the Boni-Dodori forest system. The Boni-Dodori forest system also emerges as the global centre for the Critically Endangered Aders’ duiker (Cephalophus adersi). 

Other species such as the lesser kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis) were recorded only in the dry coastal scrub habitats of northern coastal forests highlighting the additional importance of preserving the wider inter-connected mosaic of habitats representing complete communities of herbivores and predators in the coastal habitats. The combined results overall indicate the high diversity of mammal species in this region of Kenya, and further highlight this coastal region as a ‘biodiversity hotspot’. 

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