Thursday 2 July 2020

African lion counts miss the mark, but new method shows promise

Date: June 18, 2020
Source: University of Queensland
The current technique used for counting lion populations for research and conservation efforts doesn't add up, according to a University of Queensland researcher.
But UQ PhD candidate Mr Alexander Braczkowski has been investigating new methods of photographing and reviewing data analytics to count lions.
"African lions receive immense publicity and conservation attention," Mr Braczkowski said.
"Yet their populations are thought to have experienced a 50 per cent decline since 1994 -- coincidentally the same year Disney's The Lion King was released.
"Current calculations suggest that between 20,000 and 30,000 lions remain in the wild -- scattered among 102 populations across approximately 2.5 million square kilometres of Africa.
"Our research shows that the majority of estimates on African lion population and density are based on track counts, audio lure surveys and expert solicitation -- which are simply not reliable enough to understand how lion populations are doing over time."
According to Mr Braczkowski, a recently developed technique has shown promise in better counting big cats and understanding their movements.
"It involves driving extensively and searching actively for lions, and then taking high quality photographs to individually identify them and noting their locations," Mr Braczkowski said.
"We use an analytical method known as Spatially Explicit Capture-Recapture (SECR).
"For African lions, it was first applied in the Maasai Mara by Dr Nicholas Elliot and Dr Arjun Gopalaswamy, and has now been adopted by the Kenya Wildlife Service and others to survey lions and other carnivores across the country."


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