Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 14, pp 3527–3541 | Cite as

Potential for camera-traps and spatial mark-resight models to improve monitoring of the critically endangered West African lion (Panthera leo)

  • Mamadou D. Kane
  • Dana J. MorinEmail author
  • Marcella J. Kelly
Original Paper


West African lions are critically endangered throughout their range. Recent monitoring efforts focused on determining where remaining populations persist and obtaining preliminary population estimates to assess status across the region. However, current monitoring methods do not result in estimates that can be easily compared across sites or over time. Thus, there is a need to develop methods that allow for unbiased and precise comparable population parameter estimates for baseline and long-term monitoring. Spatial mark-resight models offer the ability to estimate lion density for a site over a standardized unit of area making estimates comparable. In addition, Bayesian inference is not constrained by asymptotic assumptions and allows for unbiased and precise estimates even with small sample sizes and low detection rates. We demonstrate the utility of Bayesian inference of a spatial mark-resight model for West African lion populations using a single-season camera trap survey at a study site in Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal. We estimated a site specific density of 3.02 lions/100 km2 (1.72–5.57/100 km2) based on trap-specific relocations of individuals with unique identifying natural marks, and counts of unmarked individuals at each trap. We conclude with a discussion of limitations of the current study and possible improvements on this method. We suggest immediate action including site specific monitoring within protected areas to conserve lions in this most northern part of their range. This monitoring approach can provide useful estimates over large areas providing an easily implemented and repeatable methodology for local and regional monitoring of critically endangered lion populations.


Camera trap surveys Panthera leo Spatial capture-recapture Spatial mark-resight 



We thank the Senegalese Department of National Parks for research permission. We thank E. Thiaw, A. Kébé, O. Djitté, A Traoré for their support in field surveys. We are grateful to Chris Rowe for data entry management, Samantha Hannabass, Paige Crane, and Zoe Carroll for data entry and lion individual identification. We also thank Richard Chandler and Rahel Sollmann for their assistance with the SMR model and we thank Andy Royle, and an anonymous reviewer for comments on previous drafts that have substantially improved the direction and quality of this manuscript. This study was made possible with the support of USAID/Wula Nafaa Project, Virginia Tech Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Senegalese Department of National Parks, the Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation, and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.

Supplementary material

10531_2015_1012_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (878 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 877 kb)
10531_2015_1012_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (172 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 171 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mamadou D. Kane
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dana J. Morin
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Marcella J. Kelly
    • 2
  1. 1.Direction des Parcs NationauxMEDDDakarSenegal
  2. 2.Department of Fish and Wildlife ConservationVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  3. 3.Department of Natural Resources, New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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