Brown hyaenas on roads: Estimating carnivore occupancy and abundance using spatially auto-correlated sign survey replicates
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Carnivore survey protocols that properly address spatial sampling and detectability issues are seldom feasible at a landscape-scale. This limits knowledge of large-scale patterns in distribution, abundance and their underlying determinants, hindering conservation of globally threatened carnivore populations. Occupancy analysis of data from logistically efficient sign surveys along consecutive road segments (spatially auto-correlated replicates) offers a potential solution. We adapted and applied this newly-developed method over 62,979 km2 of human-modified land in South Africa. Our aims were to (1) generate unbiased estimates of brown hyaena occupancy and abundance (2) investigate two suspected determinants of occupancy using a combination of biological and socio-economic sampling techniques, and (3) use simulations to evaluate the effort required for abundance and occupancy estimates with acceptable bias, precision and power. Brown hyaena occupancy was estimated at 0.748 (±SE 0.1), and estimated overall density in agricultural land (0.15/100 km2, ±SE 0.08) was an order of magnitude lower than in protected areas. Positive attitudes to carnivores and presence of wildlife farms exerted strong positive effects on occupancy, so changes in these factors may well exert monotonic impacts on local metapopulation status. Producing reliable occupancy and abundance estimates would require ?6 replicates and ?12 replicates per site respectively. Detecting 50% and 30% declines in brown hyaena occupancy with adequate power would require five annual surveys at ?65 sites and ?125 sites respectively. Our results suggest that protocols based on spatially auto-correlated sign survey replicates could be used to monitor carnivore populations at large, and possibly even country-wide spatial scales.
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Thorn, M.; Scott, D.; Green, M.; Bateman, Bill; Cameron, E. (2009)Conservation and management of brown hyaenas (Hyaena brunnea) is hampered by a lack ofinformation on abundance and distribution, which is difficult and labour-intensive to obtain.However, occupancy surveys offer a potentially ...
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