Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 12, pp 3079–3094 | Cite as

Critical evaluation of a long-term, locally-based wildlife monitoring program in West Africa

  • A. Cole BurtonEmail author
Original Paper


Effective monitoring programs are required to understand and mitigate biodiversity declines, particularly in tropical ecosystems where conservation conflicts are severe yet ecological data are scarce. “Locally-based” monitoring has been advanced as an approach to improve biodiversity monitoring in developing countries, but the accuracy of data from many such programs has not been adequately assessed. I evaluated a long-term, patrol-based wildlife monitoring system in Mole National Park, Ghana, through comparison with camera trapping and an assessment of sampling error. I found that patrol observations underrepresented the park’s mammal community, recording only two-thirds as many species as camera traps over a common sampling period (2006–2008). Agreement between methods was reasonable for larger, diurnal and social species (e.g., larger ungulates and primates), but camera traps were more effective at detecting smaller, solitary and nocturnal species (particularly carnivores). Data from patrols and cameras corresponded for some spatial patterns of management interest (e.g., community turnover, edge effect on abundance) but differed for others (e.g., richness, edge effect on diversity). Long-term patrol observations were influenced by uneven sampling effort and considerable variation in replicate counts. Despite potential benefits of locally-based monitoring, these results suggest that data from this and similar programs may be subject to biases that complicate interpretation of wildlife population and community dynamics. Careful attention to monitoring objectives, methodological design and robust analysis is required if locally-based approaches are to satisfy an aim of reliable biodiversity monitoring, and there is a need for greater international support in the creation and maintenance of local monitoring capacity.


West Africa Camera trap Detection bias Locally-based monitoring Law enforcement patrols Mammal monitoring Protected area management Sampling error Survey methods Wildlife conservation 



I thank the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission of Ghana for permission and logistical support, particularly N. Adu-Nsiah, U. Farouk Dubiere, M. Sam, and C. Balangtaa. I am also indebted to the many dedicated staff from Mole National Park who contributed to the patrol monitoring program. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of J. Brashares (and lab), E. Buedi, E. Bani, D. Bosu, D. Kpelle, J. Tahiru, R. Zieche, E. Ashie, R. Dave, P. Elsen, I. Abbeyquaye, S. Hateka, E. Rubidge, and T. Ayiku (A Rocha Ghana). C. Kremen, J. Brashares, S. Beissinger, W. Lidicker, and B. Jamieson made helpful comments on previous versions of the manuscript. Funding was received from the Panthera Kaplan Awards Program, U.S. National Science Foundation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Monitoring Matters (Danida), and College of Natural Resources of the University of California, Berkeley.

Supplementary material

10531_2012_355_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (255 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 255 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science, Policy and ManagementUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, CW 405 Biological Sciences CentreUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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