International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 1175-1187

First online:

How Reliable are Density Estimates for Diurnal Primates?

  • Heather M. Hassel-FinneganAffiliated withInterdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University Email author 
  • , Carola BorriesAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Stony Brook University
  • , Eileen LarneyAffiliated withInterdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University
  • , Mayuree UmponjanAffiliated withDepartment of Forest Biology, Kasetsart UniversityWildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Thailand Program
  • , Andreas KoenigAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Stony Brook University

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Primate population assessments provide the basis for comparative studies and are necessary prerequisites in determining conservation status. The most widely used assessment method is line transect sampling, which generates systematic data quickly and comparatively inexpensively. In contrast, the presumably most reliable method is long-term monitoring of known groups, which is both slow and costly. To assess the reliability of various analytical methods, we compared group and population densities for white-handed gibbons (Hylobates lar carpenteri) and Phayre’s leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus phayrei crepusculus) derived from transect walks with those from long-term group follows at Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. Our assistants and we regularly walked a 4-km transect over 30 mo (480 km total), resulting in 155 gibbon sightings and 125 leaf monkey sightings. We then estimated densities via 1) DISTANCE and 2) the Kelker method based on perpendicular distances (PD) or animal-to-observer distances (AOD). We compared the 3 estimates to values based on known home ranges (95% kernels), accounting for home range overlap, combined with group size data. Analyses of line transect data consistently overestimated group densities for both species, while underestimating group size for leaf monkeys. Quality of results varied according to the group size and spread of each species. However, we found, in accordance with previous studies, that values derived via AOD (or its derivations) matched most closely with population estimates based on home range data.


home range Hylobates lar carpenteri line transect Trachypithecus phayrei crepusculus