Sampling design and analytical advances allow for simultaneous density estimation of seven sympatric carnivore species from camera trap data

Lindsey N. Rich, David A.W. Miller, David J. Muñoz, Hugh S. Robinson, J. Weldon McNutt, Marcella J. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (SciVal)


Population density is a fundamental parameter needed to assess wildlife populations but is difficult to obtain given species are often wide-ranging and elusive. Photographic capture-recapture techniques do not require direct observations and thus, have become a common approach for estimating wildlife densities. To date, however, these studies have typically focused on single species. Our research explores study design- and analytical-based approaches for expanding photographic capture-recapture studies to assess multiple species simultaneously. We developed a hybrid-sampling scheme that varied inter-camera distances and used simulations to test the efficacy of this design versus a systematically spaced grid in estimating densities of species with varied space use. Through simulations we found the hybrid design facilitated density estimates for a wider range of species with little or no cost in accuracy for most species. We implemented a hybrid camera design across a 1154-km 2 area in northern Botswana to estimate densities of lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, wild dogs, servals, civets, and aardwolves. We estimated densities of these small- to wide-ranging carnivores, where all or some portion of the population was individually identifiable, using spatially explicit capture-recapture and mark-resight models. Mean estimates ranged from 1.2 (95% CI = 0.72–1.99) lions to 10.1 (95% CI = 8.69–11.63) spotted hyenas/100 km 2 and provided empirical information needed for the conservation of these species in Botswana. Our research demonstrates how photographic capture-recapture studies can be expanded to estimate the densities of multiple species versus just a single species within a community, thus increasing the conservation value of this globally implemented approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-20
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - May 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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