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Animals 2018, 8(11), 186; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110186

A Comparison between Video and Still Imagery as a Methodology to Determine Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) Burrow Occupancy Rates

School of Biological Science, University of Adelaide, L3 Oliphant Bldg, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia
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Received: 22 September 2018 / Revised: 16 October 2018 / Accepted: 18 October 2018 / Published: 23 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Wildlife)
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Simple Summary

While many people have great affection for southern hairy-nosed wombats, they are also considered by others to be an agricultural pest, because of the damage they can cause to farmland and agricultural infrastructure. Therefore, we need to have a good understanding of how many wombats there might be and how the population is changing, if we are to make properly informed decisions on how to best manage them. Unfortunately, because wombats are nocturnal and live underground, and because they use a number of different burrows throughout their home ranges, counting them can be difficult. We used motion-activated cameras to record how often wombats use each burrow in order to develop a reliable method of counting wombats that we can apply at the broad scale. We found that, on average, there are around 0.43 wombats for each active burrow. The use of video cameras to record this information provided a much simpler and less invasive means of researching wombat behaviour than methods such as trapping. However, video cameras do have limitations that need to be considered, and researchers need to fully understand their capabilities and limitations before employing them in the field.

Abstract

Broad-scale abundance estimates of the southern hairy-nosed wombat population use a proxy measure based on counting the number of active burrows, which is multiplied by an index of ‘wombats/active burrow’. However, the extant indices were calculated in the 1980s, prior to the use of calicivirus to control rabbits, and used invasive monitoring methods which may have affected the results. We hypothesise that the use of video might provide a logistically simple, non-invasive means of calculating updated indices. To this end, motion-activated, infra-red still and video cameras were placed at various distances outside active wombat burrows in the South Australian Murraylands and Eyre Peninsula regions. The captured imagery was inspected to determine how often the burrow was occupied by one or more wombats, and how effective the cameras were at detecting wombat activity. Video data was clearly superior to the still imagery, with more than twice as many burrow occupancies being positively identified (still: 43%). The indices of wombats/active burrow calculated based on video imagery were: Murraylands: 0.43, Eyre Peninsula: 0.42. 1948 false positive videos were recorded, of which 1674 (86%) occurred between noon and sunset. View Full-Text
Keywords: wombats; warrens; species abundance; wildlife cameras wombats; warrens; species abundance; wildlife cameras
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Swinbourne, M.J.; Taggart, D.A.; Ostendorf, B. A Comparison between Video and Still Imagery as a Methodology to Determine Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat (Lasiorhinus latifrons) Burrow Occupancy Rates. Animals 2018, 8, 186.

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