Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 2173–2191 | Cite as

Boots on the ground: in defense of low-tech, inexpensive, and robust survey methods for Africa’s under-funded protected areas

  • Paul SchuetteEmail author
  • Ngawo Namukonde
  • Matthew S. Becker
  • Fred G.R. Watson
  • Scott Creel
  • Clive Chifunte
  • Wigganson Matandiko
  • Paul Millhouser
  • Elias Rosenblatt
  • Carolyn Sanguinetti
Original Paper


Protected area managers need reliable information to detect spatial and temporal trends of the species they intend to protect. This information is crucial for population monitoring, understanding ecological processes, and evaluating the effectiveness of management and conservation policies. In under-funded protected areas, managers often prioritize ungulates and carnivores for monitoring given their socio-economic value and sensitivity to human disturbance. Aircraft-based surveys are typically utilized for monitoring ungulates because they can cover large areas regardless of the terrain, but such work is expensive and subject to bias. Recently, unmanned aerial vehicles have shown great promise for ungulate monitoring, but these technologies are not yet widely available and are subject to many of the same analytical challenges associated with traditional aircraft-based surveys. Here, we explore use of inexpensive and robust distance sampling methods in Kafue National Park (KNP) (22,400 km2), carried out by government-employed game scouts. Ground-based surveys spanning 101, 5-km transects resulted in 369 ungulate group detections from 20 species. Using generalized linear models and distance sampling, we determined the environmental and anthropogenic variables influencing ungulate species richness, density, and distribution. Species richness was positively associated with permanent water and percent cover of closed woodland vegetation. Distance to permanent water had the strongest overall effect on ungulate densities, but the magnitude and direction of this effect varied by species. This ground-based approach provided a more cost-effective, unbiased, and repeatable method than aerial surveys in KNP, and could be widely implemented by local personnel across under-funded protected areas in Africa.


Protected area management Wildlife monitoring Game scout Distance sampling Detection probability 



We thank the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife for coordinating and carrying out this research. This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation [Grant Number IOS 1145749], National Geographic Society Big Cats Initiative, WWF-Netherlands, Painted Dog Conservation Inc., the Wilderness Trust, World Bank and the Norwegian Government. We appreciate the valuable input from two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped improve this manuscript. We thank C. Fenner, P. Bowen, and Treetops School Camp for their logistical support of the Zambian Carnivore Programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Schuette
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ngawo Namukonde
    • 3
  • Matthew S. Becker
    • 2
    • 4
  • Fred G.R. Watson
    • 5
  • Scott Creel
    • 4
  • Clive Chifunte
    • 6
  • Wigganson Matandiko
    • 4
  • Paul Millhouser
    • 7
  • Elias Rosenblatt
    • 2
    • 8
  • Carolyn Sanguinetti
    • 2
  1. 1.Alaska Center for Conservation ScienceUniversity of Alaska AnchorageAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Zambian Carnivore ProgrammeMfuweZambia
  3. 3.Department of Zoology and Aquatic SciencesCopperbelt UniversityKitweZambia
  4. 4.Department of EcologyMontana State UniversityBozemanUSA
  5. 5.Division of Science and Environmental PolicyCalifornia State University Monterey Bay, Chapman Science CenterSeasideUSA
  6. 6.Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Department of ResearchChilangaZambia
  7. 7.Independent GIS ConsultantDenverUSA
  8. 8.Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of Vermont, Aiken CenterBurlingtonUSA

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