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Drones 2019, 3(2), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/drones3020034

Thermal Infrared Imaging from Drones Offers a Major Advance for Spider Monkey Surveys

1
Instituto de Investigaciones sobre los Recursos Naturales, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Avenida Juanito Itzicuaro, Morelia, Michoacan 58330, Mexico
2
ConMonoMaya A.C., Km 5.4 carretera Chemax-Coba, Chemax, Yucatan 97770, Mexico
3
Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, 146 Brownlow Hill, Liverpool L3 5RF, UK
4
Faculty of Science, Liverpool John Moores University, Byron Street, Liverpool L3 3AF, UK
5
Instituto de Neuroetología, Universidad Veracruzana, Avenida Dr. Luis Castelazo, Xalapa, Veracruz 91190, Mexico
6
School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, Byron Street, Liverpool L3 3AF, UK
7
University of Amsterdam, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, Sciencepark 904, 1098 Amsterdam, The Netherlands
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 March 2019 / Revised: 8 April 2019 / Accepted: 9 April 2019 / Published: 11 April 2019
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Abstract

Accurate and precise population estimates form the basis of conservation action but are lacking for many arboreal species due to the high costs and difficulty in surveying these species. Recently, researchers have started to use drones to obtain data on animal distribution and density. In this study, we compared ground and drone counts for spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) at their sleeping sites using a custom-built drone fitted with a thermal infrared (TIR) camera. We demonstrated that a drone with a TIR camera can be successfully employed to determine the presence and count the number of spider monkeys in a forested area. Using a concordance analysis, we found high agreement between ground and drone counts for small monkey subgroups (<10 individuals), indicating that the methods do not differ when surveying small subgroups. However, we found low agreement between methods for larger subgroups (>10 individuals), with drone counts being higher than the corresponding ground counts in 83% of surveys. We could identify additional individuals from TIR drone footage due to a greater area covered compared to ground surveys. We recommend using TIR drones for surveys of spider monkey sleeping sites and discuss current challenges to implementation. View Full-Text
Keywords: unmanned aerial vehicles; conservation; population monitoring; Ateles; primates unmanned aerial vehicles; conservation; population monitoring; Ateles; primates
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Spaan, D.; Burke, C.; McAree, O.; Aureli, F.; Rangel-Rivera, C.E.; Hutschenreiter, A.; Longmore, S.N.; McWhirter, P.R.; Wich, S.A. Thermal Infrared Imaging from Drones Offers a Major Advance for Spider Monkey Surveys. Drones 2019, 3, 34.

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