Mapping the freshwater fish of southern and eastern Africa

Written by: Megan Loftie-Eaton and Jeremy Shelton

What is going on beneath the surface of African waters? Relatively little is known about the distribution of freshwater fish in Africa and how these distributions are changing, but citizen scientists now have a new opportunity to help us improve this situation.

© Megan Loftie-Eaton

© Megan Loftie-Eaton

If you are a keen fisherman, have an interest in fish or find yourself submerged in a stream, lake or dam, you can help us map the distribution of Africa’s unique and diverse freshwater fish. All you need is a camera and a GPS, which is now standard on most smartphones but FishMAP also provides a Google Map in the data upload form where you can pinpoint your fish record. This automatically fills in the GPS coordinates for you and you can then submit your fish pics to FishMAP.

© Carl Huchzermeyer

© Carl Huchzermeyer

FishMAP is the latest addition to the Animal Demography Unit’s Virtual Museum which is housed at the University of Cape Town. The species that we’ve chosen for the FishMAP logo is a type of yellowfish (Labeobarbus) that seems to be found all over the Congo basin but science knows almost nothing about it. It makes this species a prime example of how citizen science can help gather information on its distribution.


FishMAP is now accepting photographic records of freshwater fish in southern and eastern Africa. Tentatively, the FishMAP region includes Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, and all the countries to the south and east of these. It will be some months before identifications of uploaded records take place, but the decision to move ahead has been taken. If you are interested in being involved with the development of FishMAP, please contact Les Underhill.

Let’s get fishing, snapping, and mapping!

Animal Demography Unit

The Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town believes that the best way to achieve biodiversity conservation is through enabling conservation decisions to be based on solid quantitative evidence. The mission of the Animal Demography Unit is to contribute to the understanding of animal populations, especially population dynamics, and thus provide input to their conservation. We achieve this through mass citizen science participation projects, long-term monitoring, innovative statistical modelling and population-level interpretation of results. Visit our Facebook page to keep up to date with all the latest news.

Africa Geographic