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Dec 1, 2008

Monitoring antelope species

Monitoring antelope species from SWEP Paignton Zoo Environmental Park

Establishing methods to monitor rare and elusive antelope species in Africa - providing important new information on these elusive creatures

Duiker (Cephalophini) are relatively small-bodied, largely forest-dwelling African antelope.

Monitoring duiker populations is difficult, due to their cryptic nature and densely vegetated habitat, yet is urgently needed as many species are threatened by habitat loss and widespread bushmeat hunting. Since 2001, we have investigated and compared nine methods for duiker population monitoring in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Tanzania.

These include: territory mapping, line transect counts, drive counts, dung counts (transects and ‘recce walks’), spoor counts, hair traps, camera traps, and faecal DNA analysis. For the more abundant species (common duiker in Zimbabwe and Harvey’s duiker in Tanzania) several methods have potential, but single methods should be validated with independent data wherever possible.

For the common duiker, which occupies savannah woodlands, dung counts along transects yielded apparently reliable estimates of population density which were similar to results from territory mapping. For the forest-dwelling Harvey’s duiker, line transect counts, camera-trapping and dung counts are suitable.However, due to the presence of several similar species, visual identification of dung is unreliable and DNA analysis must be used.

For the rarest forest-dwelling species (Aders’ duiker in Kenya and Abbott’s duiker in Tanzania) most methods, including labour intensive drive counts, completely failed to detect the target species. Camera traps successfully detected these species and are useful for investigating distribution and occupancy but density estimates are difficult for unmarked individuals.

Although expensive and time consuming the most reliable method to monitor these populations may be a combination of camera-trapping and dung counts with DNA identification of species.

Developed by:  SWEP Paignton Zoo Environmental Park 

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