In addition to identifying individuals within species, FIT can be used to identify at the species level. We have used it to identify between similar sympatric species, such as the black and the white rhino and the Baird’s and the Lowland tapir. It could also be used as a tool in wider biodiversity monitoring, to identify any species which leave footprints. FIT is species specific; because the technique works on the identification of geometric differences in the footprint structure, this species algorithm must be defined initially. Once a library of footprints from known animals of each species is established, the technique could be ready for field implementation for biodiversity monitoring.
Our new project, FITbase, aims to establish an endangered species database so that the necessary species algorithms can be pre-established and ready for fieldwork. The plan is to develop the database as an open-access source for non-invasive monitoring research and field-implementation.