WildSpots.org is a free iOS and Android mobile application and website for recording the migration and distribution of individual animal, bird and insect species across southern Africa. Game reserves, wildlife conservancies, NGOs and tourists alike are invited to share their wildlife sightings on this important regional database. By Des Langkilde.
Wildspots.org was created over a decade ago when the late Wally Petersen, founder of the Kommetjie Environmental Awareness Group, started mapping the location of wildlife species on the southern Cape Peninsula. Over the years this grew into a useful database and soon interesting trends appeared on the migration and distribution of individual species.
The database was extended with Petersen’s travels around southern Africa and Madagascar. In particular, studies were done on the large numbers of animals killed on the roads.
Two close friends from the eco-tourism and wildlife hospitality industries, Russ Weston and Jurie Moolman, saw the huge value in the many significant observations and in 2012 the three of them planned and developed a user-friendly recording system.
To date, WildSpots has grown to encompass over 19,026 wildlife records comprising over 1,628 unique species contributed by just 295 members. Sightings include records from Botswana, South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Wildspots is a non-commercial, free website and the information is freely available to anyone with an interest in wildlife biodiversity. WildSpots records are also contributed to the ADU and Mammal Map databases.
About the founders
The senseless murder of WildSpots founder and environmental activist Wally Petersen at his home in Kommetjie in November 2016, is a sad loss to conservation efforts in Africa.
Co-founder Jurie Moolman is a hospitality provider and owner of Djuma Game Reserve – a 9,000 ha private game reserve, which forms part of the Sabi Sands Private Nature Reserve and the Greater Kruger National Park. He is also involved in breeding rare and endangered animals at his 35, 000 ha Thaba Tholo facility near Thabazimbi.
The third co-founder of WildSpots is Russ Weston of Greenlife Africa. He is a nature ambassador and a pioneer of experiential travel in Southern Africa. Before starting Greenlife in 1992, Russ spent time as a research assistant and specialist nature guide leading expeditions throughout Southern Africa.
Since Petersen’s demise, Tourism Tattler has come onboard to continue his legacy by administrating the WildSpots online assets as a service to the travel industry and is offering a special company membership badge to those members and websites that promote Wildspots to their guests. Experts are needed to assist with identification and systems to categorise the wealth of biodiversity and Tourism Tattler is appealing to the travel industry to assist in various areas.
The WildSpots system provides excellent tools for specific research projects for closed and public collaboration. Wally Petersen’s original aim was to make Wildspots available to schools throughout southern Africa, particularly those in the rural areas where biodiversity information would be particularly valuable. “I believe that young wildlife observers will have a better chance of becoming young conservationists. The power of observation can never be underestimated. There is a growing global trend that recognises the value of Citizen Science” said Petersen when Tourism Tattler interviewed him in 2013.
“The tourism industry can make a huge contribution as WildSpots provides a great opportunity for tourists to make a meaningful contribution by logging species they encounter during their safari activities. By observing and recording the wildlife sightings around them, the visitor’s experience will be enhanced” said Petersen.
WildSpots members can set up their own unique focus area to map and record species sightings with the greatest of ease. Guests will have a personal record of their visit with great features including wildlife checklists, location maps and field notes. Of value to property owners are the tools within Wildspots to accurately define their reserve boundaries and invite contributors and members.
A Record represents a wildlife sighting that has been captured on Wildspots.org – at its most basic, it includes uploaded images of the species of wildlife spotted, along with the date and the geographical position, assisted with Google Maps. In addition, the Record can include a specific time and field notes. Start recording your wildlife sightings and let your rangers and guests document their encounters on unique personal and collaborative maps.
The free Mobile Application makes it easy to upload wildlife sightings from Android smartphones or tablet devices while out of Internet and cellphone range. The MobiApp will store the user’s records and publish them to wildspots.org when back within WiFi or signal range. These basic records are available for editing, verification and adding field notes and images at a later stage.
To date Wildspots contributors have recorded over 1,628 wildlife species, which include:
- 11,196 Birds (813 species)
- 4,906 Mammals (181 species)
- 1,734 Reptiles (242 species)
- 745 Amphibians (92 species)
- 232 Insects (184 species)
- 207 Others (116 species).
Users can explore wildlife records on a map and adjust the time range of when these records were seen. The map can also be adjusted to only show species of particular interest.
The most recent of all wildlife records can be filtered by species (Mammal, Reptile, Bird, etc), with or without a photo as well as adjust the time range.
Species identification is enhanced through a Wikipedia link for information and photos of animals. In addition, an AnimalWiki database of animal species that contains basic information, such as common and scientific names, distribution maps and photos, is integrated into the website.
Allows users with a shared wildlife interest to form a Group and contribute records to the Group – much like a Facebook or LinkedIn Group. WildSpots users can easily create their own Group or join an existing Group that focuses on a specific geographic area, wildlife category or species. All members have access to collaborative records, which can be marked as private or shared.
Add your Game Reserve
Wildspots Areas allows users to explore areas around southern Africa and get an insight about what wildlife is being spotted there. This tool builds dynamic checklists for the area. The data can also be downloaded in an Excel file format. Game and nature reserves are welcome to use WildSpots as an added value tool for their visitors and guest to record their wildlife sightings while visiting the property.
Wildspots For You
Let’s all collaborate and enjoy sharing Africas’ wildlife heritage. Wildspots is a free service for your unlimited use. Assist in creating an audit of southern Africa’s wildlife heritage, noting the existence of species and affording them the recognition and protection that they deserve.
Sponsors and partners are invited to assist in growing this legacy initiative in memory of Wally Petersen, who devoted so much time to his passion for wildlife conservation.