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Limitations to recording larger mammalian predators in savannah using camera traps and spoor

Pirie, T. J., Thomas, R. L. and Fellowes, M. D. E. ORCID: (2016) Limitations to recording larger mammalian predators in savannah using camera traps and spoor. Wildlife Biology, 22 (1). pp. 13-21. ISSN 0909-6396

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To link to this item DOI: 10.2981/wlb.00129


Traditionally, spoor (tracks, pug marks) have been used as a cost effective tool to assess the presence of larger mammals. Automated camera traps are now increasingly utilized to monitor wildlife, primarily as the cost has greatly declined and statistical approaches to data analysis have improved. While camera traps have become ubiquitous, we have little understanding of their effectiveness when compared to traditional approaches using spoor in the field. Here, we a) test the success of camera traps in recording a range of carnivore species against spoor; b) ask if simple measures of spoor size taken by amateur volunteers is likely to allow individual identification of leopards and c) for a trained tracker, ask if this approach may allow individual leopards to be followed with confidence in savannah habitat. We found that camera traps significantly under-recorded mammalian top and meso-carnivores, with camera traps more likely under-record the presence of smaller carnivores (civet 64%; genet 46%, Meller’s mongoose 45%) than larger (jackal sp. 30%, brown hyena 22%), while leopard was more likely to be recorded by camera trap (all recorded by camera trap only). We found that amateur trackers could be beneficial in regards to collecting presence data; however the large variance in measurements of spoor taken in the field by volunteers suggests that this approach is unlikely to add further data. Nevertheless, the use of simple spoor measurements in the field by a trained field researcher increases their ability to reliably follow a leopard trail in difficult terrain. This allows researchers to glean further data on leopard behaviour and habitat utilisation without the need for complex analysis.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:45983
Publisher:Nordic Society for Wildlife Biology


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