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The Use of Camera-trapping in Wildlife Assessment

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Curtis Phillabaum

on 20 February 2014

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Transcript of The Use of Camera-trapping in Wildlife Assessment

The Use of Camera-trapping in Wildlife Assessment

Curtis Phillabaum

Uses of Camera Trapping in Conservation Research
Tobler, Carrillo-Percastegui, Pitman, Mares, & Powell (2008):

• Show diversity at specific sites
• Allow comparison between sites
• Help refine distribution maps for individual species
• Used to evaluate impact of human activities on mammals

Kelly (2008):

• Provide species inventory
• Estimate species abundance and density
• Suggest potential indices of abundance

Mohd-Azlan (2009):

• Collect general wildlife surveys
• Examine animal activity patterns
• Record rare and elusive species
George Shiras III mounted a large-format camera and hand-operated flash to the front of his rowboat, used a flashlight to locate wildlife, and got as close as possible to the animal before taking the photograph.
Cameras were rigged so someone could take a picture by pulling a wire remotely.
By 1913 animals were the photographers; by hitting a trip wire, they took a picture of themselves.
Today’s camera trap consists of a battery-powered 35-millimeter camera with an infrared detector which senses changes in heat and motion and then triggers the shutter
Wildlife Cams for Captive Bush dogs
Image of whelps in den box just weeks after birth
Technological Strengths & Reasons for Using Camera Traps
Mohd-Azlan (2009):

Camera traps can…
detect mammals that flee researchers and avoid existing trails and transect areas
provide indisputable evidence and reduce bias during data collection
record secretive and rare species that are underrepresented in scientific research and literature
collect data using noninvasive methods
identify individual animals based on coat patterns and morphological features

Srbek-Araujo & Chiare (2005):

Camera traps require…
minimal training and man-hours

Disadvantages of Camera Traps
Mohd-Azlan (2009):

• Poor picture quality and bad angles can lead to misidentifications and hasty conclusions
• Failure to photograph a species does not mean it is absent
• Detectability is influenced by abiotic, biological, and anthropogenic factors
High humidity and excessive moisture can cause film to expand, batteries to leak, and damage to infrared sensors
Cameras have been disrupted by wildlife (e.g., pigs, tapirs, and elephants) using trees as scratching post
Spiders, termites, and ants have built webs or nest in front of the infrared sensor
Poachers have sabotaged camera traps within protected areas
• Maintaining cameras in the field is expensive

Srbek-Araujo & Chiare (2005):

• The high initial costs prevent some researchers from using this technology; each camera costs on average US$ 500, not including film and batteries which need to be replaced monthly
• A large number of cameras are needed to increase the probability of detecting wildlife and providing more precise estimations
• Detection of mammals by infrared sensors is best in cooler environmental temperatures—e.g., at night
In tropical areas, there is not always a significant difference in daytime and nighttime temperatures
• Results are biased towards terrestrial mammals, neglecting primates and other arboreal species
How does it work?
(Swann, Hass, Dalton, & Wolf, 2004)

Kelly, M. (2008). Design, evaluate, refine: camera trap studies for elusive species. Animal Conservation, 11, 182–184.

Mohd-Azlan, J. (2009). The use of camera traps in Malaysian rainforests. Journal of Tropical Biology and
Conservation, 5, 81-86.

Sanderson, J. & Trolle, M. (2005). Monitoring Elusive Mammals. American Scientist, 93, 148-155.

Srbek-Araujo, A. & Chiare, A. (2005). Is camera-trapping an efficient method for surveying mammals in
Neotropical forests? A case study in south-eastern Brazil. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 21, 121-125.

Swann, D., Hass, C., Dalton, D., & Wolf, S. (2004). Infrared-triggered cameras for detecting wildlife: An evaluation and review. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 32, 357-365.

Tobler, M., Carrillo-Percastegui, S., Pitman, R., Mares, R., & Powell, G. (2008). An evaluation of camera traps for
inventorying large- and medium-sized terrestrial rainforest mammals. Animal Conservation, 11, 169-178.
The Application of Wildlife Cameras in Zoos: an Important Role in the Conservation of Captive Populations
At the Palm Beach Zoo, webcams were installed in the Malayan tiger building. The female had a history of caring for her cubs (2 previous litters) for 2 months before abandoning them and leaving keepers to hand-raise. This time, she cared for all three of her cubs to adulthood. Malayan tigers are a critically endangered species in the wild. There are roughly 60+ Malayan tigers in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan. The birth of this litter was 1 of only 2 for the entire year. The use of webcams provided mom with the privacy she needed while allowing keepers to monitor their behaviors. Most importantly, these young tigers have the potential to breed in the future.
A Case Study in South-eastern Brazil (Srbek-Araujo & Chiare, 2005)

• Mammal fauna is highly diverse, but poorly known in the Atlantic forest of Brazil since few studies have been published
• Prior to this study, mammals were live-trapped, observed directly from line-transects, or were observed indirectly (footprints, scrape-marks, scat, etc.)
• Objective of study – to assess camera trapping as an inventory technique for Neotropical forests

Study site:

• The Santa Lúcia Biological Station (SLBS), in Espirito Santo, Brazil
• The officially protected preserve is 440 ha; the total forest area is 900 ha


• Data collected February – November 2002 & November 2002 – January 2004
• Selected sites had signs of wildlife activity—e.g., footprints, odors
• Location and placement of cameras were random
• Camera traps covered 158 ha
• Cameras positioned on trees > 15 cm in diameter and 45 cm off the ground
• Cameras operated 24 hours a day and recorded pictures at 20 second intervals
• No bait was used in this study
• Researchers checked the camera traps every 15 days

Data collection & analysis:

• If < 1 picture was recorded every 2-3 days, the camera was relocated
• Photos for mammals were subdivided into total (all pictures) and independent (excluding pictures of same individual at intervals of < 5 minutes)
• Sampling effort = (# camera traps) × (# of sampling days)
• Sampling success = (# independent records/ sampling effort) × 100


• Sampling effort = 1849 camera-days
• 369 independent records
• Sampling success = 20%
• Compared data with a detailed SLBS inventory (from 2000) to assess efficacy of camera traps
• Identified 21 species of indigenous mammal (from 13 families and 6 orders)
Represents 41% of the mammals confirmed in the reserve
Animals most frequently seen were agouti, opossum, ocelot, and paca
Animals seen for the first time include hairy armadillo, naked-tail armadillo, and jaguarondi
First photographic evidence of ocelot, oncilla, puma, and crab-eating raccoon
• Higher number of records, species, and capture success found during the nocturnal period
• Alternative methods should be used for small mammals and arboreal species
Bush dogs at the Palm Beach Zoo benefited from webcams; this canine species is skittish around people and easy to upset. It took years to establish a pair bond before a pregnancy. Unfortunately, the first litter was unsuccessful and only 1 of 3 whelps survived the second litter (it was hand-raised). Considering their poor history, the pair was moved to an exhibit with a private building. Webcams were installed and, for the first time in the zoo’s history, the whelps survived and were raised in a family group. Bush dogs are part of the AZA Species Survival Plan, there are only 6 different institutions in the USA that participate, and roughly 25+ individuals in the USA. The birth of this litter (see photo) was critical for the captive population. The Species Survival Plan is currently working with institutions in Europe and South America to sustain the US population; many times the permitting slows down the conservation effort.
The Evolution of the Camera Trap
(Sanderson & Trolle, 2005)
The surveillance of wildlife via camera traps originates back to 1888
Within the next three decades the camera trap continued to advance
Modern day Camera Trap
This image illustrates how the camera height and distance to target animal influence the size of the detection zone, or area where animal is detected.
Camera-trapping in action
Camera traps enhance conservation efforts
Full transcript