This January 2020 video from Botswana in Africa says about itself:
From the University of New South Wales in Australia:
December 10, 2019
Summary: A new study has shown that using a drone to film hippos in Africa is an effective, affordable tool for conservationists to monitor the threatened species’ population from a safe distance, particularly in remote and aquatic areas.
Drones with cameras might be a nuisance to privacy in the suburbs, but in Southern Africa they are helping a UNSW Sydney research team to save a threatened species: the humble hippo.
Wild numbers of the vulnerable Hippopotamus amphibius are declining because of habitat loss and hunting for meat and ivory, so monitoring their population is crucial for conservation management.
“Even though hippos are a charismatic megafauna, they are surprisingly understudied, because of how difficult it is to work with nocturnal, amphibious and aggressive animals,” said lead author Victoria Inman, a PhD candidate at UNSW Science.
Traditional methods of counting hippos include unreliable aerial surveys and hazardous land and water surveys.
Ground-based observations are unsafe for surveyors because the hippo is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa and lives in inaccessible areas.
Hippos also prefer an aquatic lifestyle and regularly submerge themselves in water, further complicating efforts to keep an eye on their population.
These challenges inspired UNSW researchers, in collaboration with conservation organisation Elephants Without Borders, to take to the skies with drones to film hippo pods and thus, more accurately estimate hippo numbers.
Their research, published in the international journal PLOS ONE on Friday, compared hippo counts from drone footage to land counts at the same lagoon with a resident hippo population in the Okavango Delta, northern Botswana, across seven days.
The researchers found the drone method just as effective as land surveys in estimating hippo numbers.
Benefits of using drones to monitor hippos
Ms Inman said researchers used a relatively low-cost drone, the multirotor DJI Phantom 4, to film hippos from various heights.
“The bird’s-eye perspective the drone gave us made it a lot easier to differentiate between individual hippos, even when they were crowded together,” she said.
“Our successful method can be repeated easily and avoids the dangers associated with counting hippos from land.
“It was also great that the drone did not bother the hippos.”
Ms Inman said the lower the drone flew, the more accurate the counting of the hippos because the video resolution was clearer.
“Counting hippos from 40 metres above was the best method and about 10 per cent more accurate than land surveys,” she said.
“Interestingly, we found that early morning was the worst time to survey because hippos were active and often submerging, making them difficult to count — this finding is counter to current advice.
“Another important advantage with the drone footage was our ability to measure hippos’ body lengths in order to determine their ages.”
Drones can help broader wildlife conservation efforts
Study co-author Professor Richard Kingsford, PhD supervisor and Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at UNSW Sydney, said their findings showed that drones are an increasingly valuable tool for observing wildlife populations.
“This method will be important for monitoring the age structure of hippo populations in different parts of Africa and to track breeding,” Prof Kingsford said.
“Importantly, our surveys also effectively tracked changes in the hippo pod over time, as adults emigrated from the lagoon as it dried — a typical response of hippos to changing water availability.
“Drones also provide a viable alternative to land-based counts and have low impact on hippos, offering further opportunities to survey inaccessible areas and, just as critically, collect this information safely.”
Ms Inman said there was an urgent need to monitor hippo populations in Africa because of the species’ long-term decline in many parts of the continent.
“Long-term statistics on animal populations are critical for understanding the nature and extent of species’ declines,” she said.
“Drone data could be routinely collected in different river systems, providing a guide to the numbers in hippo pods, seasonal changes and the ability to track the long-term status of hippo populations.
“Our study shows that small, commercially available drones are a simple, affordable and effective method for wildlife conservation organisations to monitor threatened species.”
This 28 October 2019 video from Botswana says about itself:
The Southern Lesser Galago, also known as a Bushbaby, is perfectly adapted to hunt insects at night. Their tiny bodies are offset by their large, saucer-like eyes, and they will wash their feet and hands in their own urine to make them stickier and help in climbing trees.
This 2017 video is called Makadikgadi: Wild Animals Of Botswana | [Predators And Preys Documentary].
Tourist photographs are a cheap and effective way to survey wildlife
July 22, 2019
Tourists on safari can provide wildlife monitoring data comparable to traditional surveying methods, suggests research appearing July 22 in the journal Current Biology. The researchers analyzed 25,000 photographs from 26 tour groups to survey the population densities of five top predators (lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, and wild dogs) in northern Botswana, making it one of the first studies to use tourist photographic data for this purpose.
The idea came to lead author Kasim Rafiq after hours with his Land Rover grill-deep in an abandoned warthog burrow. Rafiq, then a Ph.D. candidate at Liverpool John Moores University, had been following the tracks of a one-eared leopard named Pavarotti that he’d been searching for for months.
“Eventually I got out of the hole and spoke with the safari guides who I met on the road nearby, and who were laughing,” says Rafiq, who is about to begin a Fulbright Fellowship to expand the project further at UC Santa Cruz. “They told me that they’d seen Pavarotti earlier that morning. At that point, I really began to appreciate the volume of information that the guides and tourists were collecting and how it was being lost.”
Traditionally, animal population surveys in Africa are done using one of three methods: camera traps, track surveys, and call-in stations. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Camera traps, for example, are particularly useful to understand the variety and densities of species in an area, but they also have an immense up-front cost with no guaranteed lifespan. “For one of my other projects, I had an elephant knock down one of the camera traps, and then lion cubs ran away with the camera. When I collected it, it just had holes in it,” Rafiq says.
To test whether tourist photographs could be used for wildlife surveying, the researchers provided participating tourists with small GPS trackers, originally designed for tracking pet cats. These allowed researchers to later tag the wildlife photographs with location data. The photographs were then filtered not only by the species identified, but also by the individual animal, for the top predators, and then analyzed using computer modeling to estimate densities.
Rafiq and his team manually identified animals by their coloration patterns or, in the case of lions, by their whisker spots. The tourist photograph method was carried out alongside camera trap, track, and call-in station surveys to compare the wildlife density estimates obtained from each and the costs to get this information.
“The results suggest that for certain species and within areas with wildlife tourism, tourist-contributed data can accomplish a similar goal as traditional surveying approaches but at a much lower cost, relative to some of these other methods,” says Rafiq.
For example, the tourist-photograph method was the only approach to identify cheetahs in the study area and provided density estimates for many of the other carnivore species that were largely comparable to those from the other methods. Most of the costs of the tourist photograph method were down to the manual processing of images. These are tasks that in the future could be outsourced to artificial intelligence to reduce survey costs further.
“If we could combine advances in artificial intelligence and automated image classification with a coordinated effort to collect images, perhaps by partnering with tour operators, we would have a real opportunity for continuous, rapid assessment of wildlife populations in high-value tourism areas,” he says.
This method of surveying animal populations is most applicable when studying the charismatic megafauna that tourists are usually interested in, and in areas with established tourism programs.
“There isn’t one silver bullet that will be useful in every situation,” Rafiq says. “Instead, as conservationists and researchers, we have a toolkit of different techniques that we can dip into depending on our project’s requirements and needs. This study adds to the growing body of evidence that citizen science is a powerful tool for conservation. This approach provides the opportunity to not only aid the monitoring of charismatic megafauna highly valued by society, but also has the potential to shape how we can meaningfully participate in conservation efforts.”
This 1 January 2019 video from Botswana says about itself:
The Okavango River Basin provides a vital source of water to about one million people and abundant and diverse wildlife populations. However, this once untouched oasis is now at risk as human activity encroaches. Come face to face with lions, hippos, wild dogs, and more in the final episode of The Okavango Experience, as the team returns from this incredible wilderness.