Estimating animal density without individual recognition using information derivable exclusively from camera traps

In Journal of Applied Ecology
Volume (Issue): DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13059
Peer-reviewed Article

1.Efficient and reliable methods for estimating animal density are essential to wildlife conservation and management. Camera trapping is an increasingly popular tool in this area of wildlife research, with further potential arising from technological improvements, such as video recording functions that allow for behavioural observation of animals. This information may be useful in the estimation of animal density, even without individual recognition. Although several models applicable to species lacking individual markings (i.e. unmarked populations) have been developed, a methodology incorporating behavioural information from videos has not yet been established.

2.We developed a likelihood-based model: the random encounter and staying time (REST) model. It is an extension of the random encounter model (REM) by Rowcliffe et al. (2008). The REST model describes the relationship among staying time, trapping rate, and density, which is estimable using a frequentist or Bayesian approach. We tested the reliability and feasibility of the REST model using Monte Carlo simulations. We also applied the approach in the African rainforest and compared the results with those of a line-transect survey.

3.The simulations showed that the REST model provided unbiased estimates of animal density. Even when animal movement speeds varied among individuals, and when animals travelled in pairs, the model provided unbiased density estimates. However, the REST model was vulnerable to unsynchronized activity patterns among individuals. Moreover, it is necessary to use a camera model with a fast and reliable infrared sensor, and to set the camera trap's parameters appropriately (i.e. video length, delay period). The field survey showed that the staying time of two ungulate species in the African rainforest exhibited good fit with a temporal parametric distribution, and the REST model provided density estimates consistent with those of a line-transect survey.

4.Synthesis and applications. The random encounter and staying time (REST) model provides better efficiency and higher feasibility than the random encounter model in estimating animal density without individual recognition. Careful application of the REST model provides the potential to estimate density of many ground-dwelling vertebrates lacking individually recognizable markings, and thus should be an effective method for population monitoring.

Author:
Yoshihiro
Nakashima
Keita
Fukasawa
Date:
Topic: