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Camera traps, or remotely triggered cameras, are a valuable tool for primatologists, as they can provide a plethora of insights into primate ecology, without the necessity of having researchers continuously present for observation. Camera traps can provide surprising or new information about a species and can also be used to inform conservation policy when species are threatened with extinction. Camera traps may be particularly useful to primatologists studying rare or elusive species, in instances when habituation is extremely difficult or likely to harm the focal species, and when terrain is extremely difficult for humans to navigate. Primate-specific methodological considerations and transparency are important in study design and for comparative purposes, respectively. In sum, camera traps are important tools in both epistemological and conservation research involving primates.
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Camera Traps
University of California, San Diego, United States
The University of Texas at San Antonio, United
Remarkable information has been garnered from
primate studies using camera traps, including: the
rst-ever photographs of a living newly discov-
ered primate species (e.g., Rhinopithecus strykeri
(Chen et al. 2015)), behavioral insights on the rare
Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), pre-
dation events, night-time activity in “diurnal”
primates (Rhinopithecus brelichi,Lemur catta,
Pan troglodytes verus), and cave use (L. catta,
P. t . v e r u s). Primate observations such as these
would have been unlikely without camera traps
(see Pebsworth and LaFleur 2014 and references
Conservation planning and initiatives can
also be furthered by the use of camera traps.
e world’s largest coordinated camera trap
project, Tropical Ecology Assessment and Mon-
itoring Netwok (TEAM,,
encourages primatologists to contribute their
data. TEAM studies must adhere to rigorous
protocols and use a minimum of 60 cameras,
which may not be feasible for many primate
studies. Other primate camera trap projects have
used resultant data to inform oil and gas devel-
opers on the eectiveness of natural corridor
maintenance (Gregory et al. 2014), understand
changes in primate behavior in relation to habitat
change (e.g., terrestrial behavior in orangutans
(Pongo pygmaeus morio) (Loken, Spehar, and
Rayadin 2013)), and determine the eects of
anthropogenic disturbance on primates and their
predators according to forest type (Farris et al.
2014). Data such as these are likely to become
increasing important for the future of primate
conservation, particularly when primatologists
need to limit habituation or animal exposure to
human activities.
e International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Edited by Agustín Fuentes.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
DOI: 10.1002/9781119179313.wbprim0281
Camera trap study design can be divided into
baited or nonbaited, and random or nonrandom
camera placement. Baited studies provide an
incentive for the target animal to visit the camera
trap station. Bait is oen food, but could also
include auditory or olfactory cues. Use of bait is
oen criticized because it may inuence the ani-
mal’s behavior, but it may also be an appropriate
means of recording those species that are particu-
larly elusive. With a nonrandom design, cameras
are strategically placed to monitor behavior
occurring at a xed location. Examples of such
behavior include geophagy (Figure 1), water use
(drinking or wading) (Figure 2), movement along
a specic trail, and/or any behavior that takes
place at a specic feature of interest. Nonrandom
placement of cameras facilitates ease of camera
setup and monitoring, and increases the proba-
bility of detecting animals. As such, nonrandom
study designs are ideal for rare, elusive, and
hard-to-detect primates. Alternatively, with ran-
dom study designs, camera placement is decided
apriori, based on geographical coordinates, and
does not take landscape features into account.
Although random camera placement decreases
ultimately limit sample bias and provide more
accurate estimates of primate abundance.
e probability of detection can vary greatly
with study design (nonrandom/random camera
placement), species characteristics (gregarious/
solitary; terrestrial/arboreal; fast/slow moving)
and even habitat types (pristine/disturbed; sea-
sonal/aseasonal). It is thus important that both
sampling and inherent biases are accounted for,
such that comparisons can be accurately made
both within and between studies. To illustrate,
detection probability is higher in gregarious
species that travel and forage together, compared
to species that are solitary (or semisolitary)
and travel or forage alone. As such, a greater
proportion of photos of a gregarious species
may lead one to erroneously conclude that there
are more individual animals present. Imperfect
detection, such as this, can be accounted for with
occupancy modeling (Gerber et al. 2014) and
complementary techniques such as behavioral
DLC 3.01.2014 15:03:21
Figure 1 Chacma baboon (Papio cynocephalus ursinus) eating soil at the Wildcli Nature Reserve,
South Africa.
Photo by Paula Pebsworth.
MAK I 2 80°F26°C 05 - 12 - 2015 13: 17 :52
Figure 2 Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at a drinking site within the Mitoho cave at the Tsimanam-
petsotse National Park, Madagascar.
Photo by Marni LaFleur.
observations, transect counts, and scat analyses
(Pebsworth and LaFleur 2014).
Careful consideration is also needed in the
interpretation of primate camera trap data, such
as the determination of statistically independent
events. Independent events can range from
minutes to days, according to the study design,
purpose, and primate species. For example, pho-
tographs resulting from a tandem camera setup
or multiple photographs per trigger are not inde-
pendent, and thus the data recorded from those
images would only be counted once. For primate-
specic behavioral events, the researcher(s) must
determine what constitutes an event. To illustrate,
over a period of time. However, since the event
is the “primate group” visiting the geophagy site,
all of the resultant photos from the visit would
again only be counted as one event. A rule would
then need to be exercised that states a specic
lag period between one event and subsequent
events. Five minutes, in this example, would not
be sucient, as animals photographed within ve
and geophagy event. An hour, or three hours, or
even 24 hours may be appropriate delineators of
independent events here, again depending on the
research purpose and primate species.
For comparative purposes, it is imperative that
primatologists use transparent and consistent
camera trap methods. Manuscripts and reports
should include detailed methodology including:
authors’ denitions of camera trap days and
independent events; camera type (make, model);
camera setting details (ash type and intensity,
trigger speed and sensitivity, detection zone);
environmental variables which may inuence
trap rates (ambient temperature, wind); and
incidences of malfunction. ese are likely to
data, which will in turn further the knowledge
gained and potential conservation impact of
camera traps in primatology.
SEE ALSO: Development and Primate
Conservation; Habitat Fragmentation;
Non-Invasive Techniques: Vocalizations;
Observational Methods
Chen, Yixin, Zuofu Xiang, Xinwen Wang, Wen Xiao,
Zhishu Xiao, Baoping Ren, Chengxiang He, Caihe
Sang, Haishu Li, and Li Ming. 2015. “Preliminary
Study of the Newly Discovered Primate Species
Rhinopithecus strykeri at Pianma, Yunnan, China,
Using Infrared Camera Traps.” International Journal
of Primatology, 36: 679–690. DOI:10.1007/s10764-
Farris, Zach J., Sarah M. Karpanty, Felix Ratelolahy,
and Marcella J. Kelly. 2014. “Predator–Primate Dis-
tribution, Activity, and Co-occurrence in Relation to
Habitat and Human Activity Across Fragmented and
Contiguous Forests in Northeastern Madagascar.”
International Journal of Primatology, 35: 859–880.
L. Bailey. 2014. “Primates and Cameras: Non-
invasive Sampling to Make Population-Level Infer-
ences While Accounting for Imperfect Detection.”
International Journal of Primatology, 35: 841–858.
Gregory, Tremaine, Farah Carrasco Rueda, Jessica
Deichmann, Joseph Kolowski, and Alfonso Alonso.
2014. “Arboreal Camera Trapping: Taking a Proven
Method to New Heights.” Methods in Ecolog y
and Evolution, 5: 443–451. DOI:10.1111/2041-
Loken, Brent, Stephanie Spehar, and Yaya Rayadin.
2013. “Terrestriality in the Bornean Orangutan
(Pongo pygmaeus morio) and Implications for their
Ecology and Conservation.” American Journal of Pri-
matology, 75: 1129–1138. DOI:10.1002/ajp.22174.
Pebsworth, Paula A., and Marni LaFleur. 2014.
Advancing Primate Research and Conservation
rough the Use of Camera Traps: Introduction to
the Special Issue.” International Journal of Primatol-
ogy, 35: 825–840. DOI:10.1007/s10764-014-9802-4.
Full-text available
En este libro se presentan los primeros seis protocolos donde se discuten metodologías concretas, como el uso de cámaras trampa, un sistema participativo de colecta biológica, el uso de drones para el monitoreo de fauna silvestre y metodologías para el estudio fisicoquímico y organoléptico de carne y subproductos de reptiles. Además, se incluyen dos trabajos con un enfoque más integral que describen un conjunto de metodologías dirigidas a mejorar el monitoreo de aves silvestres y garantizar el uso sostenible de carne de origen silvestre. Con este libro COMFAUNA pretende mejorar la producción de informaciones útiles para el uso de la biodiversidad y que permitan fortalecer argumentos políticos que mejoren el uso sostenible de la misma.
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The Burmese snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri) is one of the most recently discovered primate species, and occurs only along the border of Myanmar and China. Its ecology is largely unknown owing to its harsh and remote habitat. However, study of this new species can contribute to our understanding of how primates adapt to a high-altitude lifestyle. We here describe our preliminary study of a group of R. strykeri, using a mix of direct observation and camera traps, at Pianma, Yunnan, China. From May 2013 to May 2014, we conducted direct observation and deployed 30 camera traps to examine the social characteristics of R. strykeri, estimate group home range via the modified minimum convex polygon method, and estimate the vertical range used. We achieved direct observation on 8 days and obtained 222 camera trap images triggered by the passing of R. strykeri. The cameras captured five one-male, multifemale units and one all-male unit. We observed fusion of units without aggression during both direct observation and camera trapping, suggesting that R. strykeri lives in a multilevel society, similarly to the other members of the genus. The ratio of adults to immatures was high relative to stable populations of Rhinopithecus, suggesting the population is in decline. We estimated the group’s home range to be 22.9 km2 and found that R. strykeri occurred at 2400–3300 m. Our work shows that camera traps can be used effectively to survey rare primates.
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Effective conservation and management of primates depend on our ability to accurately assess and monitor populations through research. Camera traps are proving to be useful tools for studying a variety of primate species, in diverse and often difficult habitats. Here, we discuss the use of camera traps in primatology to survey rare species, assess populations, and record behavior. We also discuss methodological considerations for primate studies, including camera trap research design, inherent biases, and some limitations of camera traps. We encourage other primatologists to use transparent and standardized methods, and when appropriate to consider using occupancy framework to account for imperfect detection, and complementary techniques, e.g., transect counts, interviews, behavioral observation, to ensure accuracy of data interpretation. In addi-tion, we address the conservation implications of camera trapping, such as using data to inform industry, garner public support, and contributing photos to large-scale habitat monitoring projects. Camera trap studies such as these are sure to advance research and conservation of primate species. Finally, we provide commentary on the ethical considerations, e.g., photographs of humans and illegal activity, of using camera traps in primate research. We believe ethical considerations will be particularly important in future primate studies, although this topic has not previously been addressed for camera trap use in primatology or any wildlife species.
Full-text available
Predator–primate interactions are understudied, yet predators have been shown to influence primate behavior, population dynamics, and spatial distribution. An understanding of these interactions is important for the successful management and conservation of these species. Novel approaches are needed to understand better the spatial relationships between predators and primates across changing landscapes. We combined photographic surveys of predators and humans with line-transect sampling of lemurs across contiguous and fragmented forests in Madagascar to 1) compare relative activity; 2) estimate probability of occupancy and detection; 3) estimate predator–primate and local people–primate co-occurrence; and 4) assess variables influencing these parameters across contiguous and fragmented forests. In fragmented (compared to contiguous) forest sites endemic predator and lemur activity were lower whereas introduced predator and local people activity were higher. Our two-species interaction occupancy models revealed a higher number of interactions among species across contiguous forest where predator and lemur occupancy were highest. Mouse lemurs show evidence of “avoidance” (SIF < 1.0) with all predator species (endemic and introduced) in contiguous forest whereas white-fronted brown lemurs show “attraction” (SIF > 1.0) with feral cats and local people in contiguous forest. Feral cats demonstrated the highest number of interactions with lemurs, despite their distribution being limited to only contiguous forest. Distance to forest edge and distance to nearby villages were important in predicting predator occupancy and detection. These results highlight the growing threat to endemic predators and lemurs as habitat loss and fragmentation increase throughout Madagascar. We demonstrate the effectiveness of a novel combination of techniques to investigate how predator species impact primate species across a gradient of forest fragmentation.
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Field-based primate studies often make population inferences using count-based indices (e.g., individuals/plot) or distance sampling; the first does not account for the probability of detection and thus can be biased, while the second requires large sample sizes to obtain precise estimates, which is difficult for many primate studies. We discuss photographic sampling and occupancy modeling to correct for imperfect detection when estimating system states and dynamics at the landscape level, specifically in relation to primate ecology. We highlight the flexibility of the occupancy framework and its many applications to studying low-density primate populations or species that are difficult to detect. We discuss relevant sampling and estimation procedures with special attention to data collection via photographic sampling. To provide tangible meaning to terminology and clarify subtleties, we use illustrative examples. Photographic sampling can have many advantages over observer-based sampling, especially when studying rare or elusive species. Combining photographic sampling with an occupancy framework allows inference to larger scales than is common in primate studies, addresses uncertainty due to the observation process, and allows researchers to examine questions of how landscape-level anthropogenic changes affect primate distributions.
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1.Although camera trapping has been shown to be a highly effective non-invasive tool for wildlife monitoring, the technique has not yet been widely applied to studies of arboreal species. Despite the unique challenges that camera trapping in the canopy poses, its versatility and relatively non-invasive nature, combined with recent technological improvements on the cameras themselves, make camera trapping a highly useful tool for arboreal research. 2.We present data on the methodology and effectiveness of arboreal camera trapping during the first six months of a year-long study in the Lower Urubamba Region of Peru investigating animal use of natural crossing points (i.e., branches) over a natural gas pipeline clearing. We placed Reconyx PC800 Hyperfire cameras in 25 crossing points of 13 distinct natural canopy “bridges” at a mean height of 26.8m. 3.After six months of data collection, we logged 1,522 photo events, recording 20 mammal, 23 bird, and four reptile species. An analysis of animal passing events in front of the cameras over time did not suggest any negative response to camera presence. While we found that cameras in the canopy are triggered more frequently by non-target stimuli (e.g., leaves) than cameras on the ground, we demonstrated significantly reduced false triggering following leaf removal within 1.5 meters of the camera. 4.Our results suggest that arboreal camera trapping can provide robust documentation of a diversity of vertebrate species engaged in a variety of activities, and we provide recommendations for other researchers interested in using in this method. This is the most extensive arboreal camera trapping study to date in terms of the length of the study period, the number of cameras being used, and the height of the cameras in the trees. Therefore, lessons provided from this experience can be used to improve the design of future arboreal camera trap studies. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Aside from anecdotal evidence, terrestriality in orangutans (Pongo spp.) has not been quantified or subject to careful study and important questions remain about the extent and contexts of terrestrial behavior. Understanding the factors that influence orangutan terrestriality also has significant implications for their conservation. Here we report on a camera trapping study of terrestrial behavior in the northeastern Bornean orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus morio, in Wehea Forest, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. We used 78 non-baited camera traps set in 43 stations along roads, trails, and at mineral licks (sepans) to document the frequency of orangutan terrestriality. Habitat assessments were used to determine how terrestrial behavior was influenced by canopy connectivity. We compared camera trapping results for P. p. morio to those for a known terrestrial primate (Macaca nemestrina), and another largely arboreal species (Presbytis rubicunda) to assess the relative frequency of terrestrial behavior by P. p. morio. A combined sampling effort of 14,446 trap days resulted in photographs of at least 15 individual orangutans, with females being the most frequently recorded age sex class (N = 32) followed by flanged males (N = 26 records). P. p. morio represented the second most recorded primate (N = 110 total records) of seven primate species recorded. Capture scores for M. nemestrina (0.270) and P. p. morio (0.237) were similar and almost seven times higher than for the next most recorded primate, P. rubicunda (0.035). In addition, our results indicate that for orangutans, there was no clear relationship between canopy connectivity and terrestriality. Overall, our data suggest that terrestriality is relatively common for the orangutans in Wehea Forest and represents a regular strategy employed by individuals of all age-sex classes. As Borneo and Sumatra increasingly become characterized by mixed-use habitats, understanding the ecological requirements and resilience in orangutans is necessary for designing optimal conservation strategies. Am. J. Primatol. 9999:1-10, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Primates and Cameras: Noninvasive Sampling to Make Population-Level Inferences While Accounting for Imperfect Detection
  • Brian D Gerber
  • J Perry
  • Larissa L Williams
  • Bailey
Gerber, Brian D., Perry J. Williams, and Larissa L. Bailey. 2014. "Primates and Cameras: Noninvasive Sampling to Make Population-Level Inferences While Accounting for Imperfect Detection." International Journal of Primatology, 35: 841-858. DOI:10.1007/s10764-014-9802-4.
Terrestriality in the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus morio) and Implications for their Ecology and ConservationAdvancing Primate Research and Conservation Through the Use of Camera Traps: Introduction to the Special Issue
  • Brent Loken
  • Stephanie Spehar
  • Yaya Rayadin Paula
  • Marni Lafleur
Loken, Brent, Stephanie Spehar, and Yaya Rayadin. 2013. "Terrestriality in the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus morio) and Implications for their Ecology and Conservation." American Journal of Primatology, 75: 1129-1138. DOI:10.1002/ajp.22174. Pebsworth, Paula A., and Marni LaFleur. 2014. "Advancing Primate Research and Conservation Through the Use of Camera Traps: Introduction to the Special Issue." International Journal of Primatology, 35: 825-840. DOI:10.1007/s10764-014-9802-4.