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Scientists are developing useful new tools for surveying elusive rainforest mammals

Researchers working in Peru’s Manú Biosphere Reserve say that they have demonstrated the effectiveness of using arboreal camera traps to survey charismatic and threatened rainforest mammal species that often go under-studied.

  • A team of researchers used arboreal camera traps and traditional ground-based survey techniques to collect 1,201 records of 24 arboreal mammal species. Six of the species were detected only by the arboreal camera traps.
  • Despite what you might expect, deploying arboreal camera traps doesn’t necessarily cost more than traditional survey methods.

In addition to being charismatic flagship species for conservation, arboreal rainforest mammals — monkeys, anteaters, porcupines, sloths — are essential ecosystem engineers that disperse fruits and seeds and act as key rainforest pollinators. Despite their importance, however, there’s a lot we don’t know about these secretive, nocturnal creatures.

But researchers working in Peru’s Manú Biosphere Reserve say that they have demonstrated the effectiveness of using arboreal camera traps to survey the charismatic and threatened rainforest mammal species that often go under-studied.

“This is the first scientific peer-reviewed publication where we display the potential of arboreal cameras to inventory mammals in a typical forest environment and directly compare their efficiency and cost with traditional ground-based survey techniques,” the University of Glasgow’s Andrew Whitworth, lead author of the study, published Monday in the journal Tropical Conservation Science, told Mongabay.

Whitworth and a team that also included researchers from Peru’s Universidad Nacional San Antonio Abad del Cuscoas as well as the UK’s University of Exeter accumulated 1,201 records of 24 arboreal mammal species. 18 of the species were detected by arboreal cameras, while seven were detected by diurnal line transects, six by nocturnal transects, and 18 by incidental observations. Most importantly, six of the species were detected only by the arboreal camera traps.

rth and team also captured a number of birds and reptiles on the cameras. “We had one video of an incredibly rare species of canopy-dwelling lizard, unseen in the flesh by many experienced herpetologists, myself included,” he said. “It was awesome to see this little dude running around 25 meters up in the canopy showing a very cool territorial, head-bobbing display.”

Read the full article here

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