Tuesday, 2 April 2013

How to Count Komodo Dragons

Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Date: 29 March 2013 Time: 05:30 PM ET

How do you count Komodo dragons? With some cameras and the element of surprise.

Camera traps are frequently used to take pictures and monitor populations of large mammals like tigers and leopards, but until now, they haven't been used often to count Komodo dragons ― the world's largest lizards ― or other reptiles and amphibians.

Recent research suggests that they can and should be used to keep tabs on these animals, and that cameras may beat the physical traps currently used to monitor Komodo dragon populations.

Camera traps work by taking pictures when alerted to the presence of an animal by a motion detector, often an infrared one that detects heat. That's a potential problem for reptiles and amphibians, which are cold-blooded, and thus often have the same temperature as the surrounding environment.

But the study, published online last week in the journal PLOS ONE, found that cameras worked about as well as traps at detecting the presence of Komodo dragons ― and, in certain areas, did even better. Plus, they require much less manpower to operate, and are far less expensive. With cameras, there is also no need to set up a large trap, bait it with goat meat and free the animal afterward.

Filming dragons
The finding is significant, considering Komodo populations are threatened by human activities and that many lizards and amphibians are in decline around the world. Camera traps could help keep monitor these reptilian beasts elsewhere.

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