Project: Camera traps to assess Temminck’s pangolin population density

The use of camera traps to assess Temminck’s pangolin (Smutsia temminckii) population density and burrow use in Kenya

Deadline 24 May – now closed for applications

Project description:
Temminck’s ground pangolins are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and are threatened by human actions, including trafficking and habitat loss. Pangolins are an elusive and low-density species that are rarely seen. Currently there are no accurate methods for estimating the number of pangolins in an area and the ability to do this would greatly help understand the extent of their decline and improve conservation efforts.

This project aims to use camera traps to develop a method for monitoring pangolin populations via assessing the number of individuals present in an area. Data is currently being collected in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya in collaboration with a local research group, The Pangolin Project. Camera traps are being placed outside potential pangolin burrows to monitor how pangolins use burrows and estimate their population size.

This project will be desk-based and will entail the analysis of the camera trap photos and videos. The student will go through images and identify the species captured, and where possible attempt to identify individual pangolins from their unique scale patterns. This approach has not been widely used so would be a new technique that we hope to trial. Throughout this project the student will learn how to design and implement a camera trap study. The student will also learn how to estimate population size from camera trap data.

Tasks and activities to be undertaken by the UG/PGT student:
Sort through camera trap data and identify the species present. The student will attempt to identify individual pangolins from their scale patterns and other identifying features. Potentially perform some statistical analyses on the results.

Experience and knowledge required/desired:
This project doesn’t require much specific experience other than the ability to identify a pangolin from a photo. We will also be testing if it’s possible to identify individual pangolins. Species ID knowledge of other African animals will be helpful but is not essential as it can be learned during the project. Basic statistic skills would be helpful but again are not essential.

Skills, knowledge, experience to be gained:
The student will work as part of a larger conservation project that focuses on a highly threatened species. This project is a collaboration with The Pangolin Project in Kenya and the student will work closely with myself and the project team.

They will develop camera trap data analysis skills including African species identification knowledge. I plan to teach the student how the study was designed and how data were collected and teach them how to design future camera trap studies. I will also teach the student how population estimates can be obtained from camera trap data.

The student will have the opportunity to help analyse the results they collect from the camera data, and this may feed in to future publication of the data, meaning co-authorship.

Project lead: Lea Stracquadanio,

School: Applied Sciences