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All camera-trap photos courtesy of Lindsey Rich and Panthera, a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving big cats and their ecosystems around the globe.

When most people think of Africa, they picture sprawling savannahs and big cats stalking through tall grasses. But with predator populations in Africa declining by as much as 80 percent, the image of that landscape is changing. To help protect it, researchers are finding new ways to understand animal populations.

Lindsey Rich, who recently completed her doctorate in wildlife conservation, conducted three years of camera-trap research in Botswana, where she sought to evaluate carnivore distributions and densities, and understand how local carnivore populations were being affected by humans. She discovered, however, that the data she was collecting could be used to further research on a much wider range of mammal populations.

Rich partnered with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, an organization dedicated to studying and preserving Africa’s largest predators, including lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, leopards, and spotted hyenas — species that have a huge impact on both the local ecosystem and the local economy.

See the related article: Wildlife graduate student finds camera traps an effective tool for studying African wildlife communities.

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