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Huge camera trap study becomes a mobile game

Published 4:31 AM ET, Mon July 26, 2021
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A mobile game called "Unseen Empire" turns a real wildlife camera trap study into a playable experience, to help people to better understand conservation science. Players get to identify animals from a selection of the 6 million photographs captured by a study in Southeast Asia -- including this one of a Nicobar crab-eating macaque. WildCRU
The game is produced by the company Internet of Elephants, which creates digital experiences based on scientific research. This sun bear was photographed as part of the camera trap study featured in Unseen Empire, carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) at Oxford University. WildCRU
WildCRU's initial research was conducted in Southeast Asia, looking at the elusive clouded leopard, but the decade-long study ended up photographing more than 250 animal species -- including this banded civet. The banded civet is nocturnal and lives in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and parts of Myanmar and Thailand. WildCRU
With a population thought to be less than 10,000, the clouded leopard is considered vulnerable due to deforestation and poaching. Southeast Asia's forests are threatened by urbanization, illegal logging and land clearing for farming. WildCRU
The greater one-horned rhino is also known as the Indian rhino and is the biggest of the rhino species. Once close to extinction, its numbers have improved since the early 20th century, according to WWF. WildCRU
The greater hog badger is found in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and other parts of Asia. It is considered vulnerable, and its numbers are decreasing because of hunting and other threats. Internet of Elephants hopes its games will engage people who may not have a previous interest in wildlife conservation. WildCRU
The siamang is a large gibbon found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It is endangered, threatened by deforestation, mining and poaching. WildCRU
A Himalayan musk deer, photographed as part of the WildCRU study. "If you don't have any encounter or experience with elements of nature, then what motivation can you have to take a personal interest in it?" says professor David Macdonald of the WildCRU team. WildCRU
Found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Myanmar, the Malayan tapir is threatened by habitat destruction and hunting. WildCRU
The Siamese fireback is a pheasant found in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. "I would like to think that engagement with this game ... will lead to a feeling of value, which will affect how (people) think about nature," says Macdonald. WildCRU