Make a dichotomous key of East African wildlife

Targeted age group: Grades 6-8
Savanna ecosystems in East Africa are home to a large number of animals, including lion, elephant, giraffe, and baboons. In this activity, students will develop their own dichotomous key to distinguish between the physical characteristics of 16 different East African animal species. To guide students as they develop their keys, we have provided a PDF of animal photos. At the end of the activity, students will be challenged to identify wildlife in photographs taken by a camera trap set up by the Amboseli Baboon Research Project in Amboseli, Kenya. Camera traps take a photo, day or night, whenever an animal triggers the camera’s infrared motion sensor. Reasonably priced and durable in the field, camera traps are a valuable, non-invasive tool for researchers – including junior scientists – interested in studying animals in the wild. Each photo taken by a camera trap automatically records the date, time, temperature, and lunar phase. Although these cameras are a fantastic research tool, identifying wildlife photographed by camera traps isn’t always easy!
Materials needed:
Animal photo cards
Camera trap challenge photos
Camera trap challenge answer key
Scissors or paper cutter
Amboseli Baboon Research Project, Dawn Nachtigall, Catherine Markham, Tristan Arnau
Additional resources/links:
Snapshot Serengeti
Camera trap photo

A sample camera trap photo of a young baboon and its mother