The Use of Camera Traps for Monitoring the Population of Long-Tailed Gorals

Research paper by O.Yu. Zaumyslova, S.N. Bondarchuk

Indexed on: 05 Nov '16Published on: 13 Jul '15Published in: Achievements in the Life Sciences


Publication date: Available online 8 July 2015 Source:Achievements in the Life Sciences Author(s): O.Yu. Zaumyslova , S.N. Bondarchuk The long-tailed goral (Nemorhaedus caudatus) is a rare montane ungulate species with a patchy distribution. In the Sikhote-Alin Reserve, gorals occupy the northern part of their range, concentrated primarily in a small coastal area (6.4km2) in Abrek Urochishe. Our pilot study tested the feasibility of individual photo-identification of gorals and population size estimation using the capture–recapture method. We used 10 camera traps spaced 0.6–2km apart on coastal slopes to monitor the gorals. Four additional cameras were placed at the Reserve boundaries, mainly for law enforcement purposes, such as documenting trespassers. Between June 1 and December 31, 2013, we collected nearly 3000 photographs of gorals, 500 photographs of other wildlife, and 12 images of illegal activities within the Reserve. The total sampling effort was 1870 camera days. Photo data showed that goral horns are reliable biometric identifiers, distinguishable by size, shape, pattern, and the number of rings. The proportion of individually identified gorals in our photos was 0.64 (SE=0.05). Most individuals (45) were marked (i.e., first detected on camera) in the fall; therefore, preliminary estimates of the goral population size were made between October 11 and December 20, 2013. A closure test confirmed that the population was, in fact, closed (z=−2.670, P=0.004). The best-fit closed population multiple recapture model for our data was the heterogeneity model Mh (programme CAPTURE), which assumes an unequal capture probability (χ 2 =112.19; d.f.=9; P =0.000). The average goral capture probability was 0.16, and the corresponding population size was estimated at 90 individuals (SE=6.91; 95% CI: 77–125 individuals). The average goral population density in a 3.5km2 effective sampled area (56% of the entire plot area) was 25 individuals/km2 (SE=5.62). Extrapolation to locations that lacked data suggests that Abrek Urochishe supports a goral population of 160 individuals. Our results demonstrate that camera trap data can be used for photographic capture–recapture sampling of goral populations. This approach may be more effective than traditional visual surveys of montane ungulates that tend to underestimate the population abundance. The use of camera traps will undoubtedly enhance goral monitoring efforts, aiding in the conservation of this rare species.