Novel Techniques to Study the Critically Endangered Marine Wildlife in Mozambique

Jennifer Ann Keeping

Other projects

10 Jul 2020

The Importance of Cleaning Stations to Critically Endangered Wildlife on Shallow Coastal Reefs

Following the astounding volume of sightings of endangered species obtained from the initial set of camera deployments, and success of public engagement in increasing conservation motivations in the local community, a second year of research funding is invaluable to the ongoing success of this pioneering research project.

This second year will include several more specialist long-life remote cameras, enabling systematic footage collection over more sites, and an expansion of community engagement events. This will drastically promote local education and conservation about the rarest and most endangered marine species that Mozambique hosts to the people that can conserve it best: the Mozambicans. The behaviours, interactions and abundances of threatened marine species, including bowmouth guitarfish, manta ray, hammerhead shark, eagle ray and many more endangered species (some simultaneously) on the footage thus far has been outstanding, and highlighted the need for extensive behavioural and abundance studies on these otherwise rarely sighted animals in this highly valuable, yet vulnerable marine habitat.

The camera’s used for this study have a battery life of up to 10 days, recording 1080p 30fps video during daylight hours. Not only is this technology for marine research pioneering for the field, but we are also working with machine learning developers to automatically recognise the key species from this footage. With this AI, we intend to rapidly process 1,000s of hours of footage not only indicating when specific species pass in front of the camera, but also automating behavioural metrics such as species interactions, cleaning duration, swimming speed, oscillation and more. This valuable footage, strategically placed along the ‘cleaning station’ areas of reef in Tofo, ought to simultaneously provide both data for publication and public engagement.

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