Counting crocs from the sky

Here’s a link to a new paper led by Gokarna Thapa on counting crocs with a drone.

Here’s the abstract:

Technology is rapidly changing the methods in the field of wildlife monitoring. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an example of a new technology that allows biologists to take to the air to monitor wildlife. Fixed Wing UAV was used to monitor critically endangered gharial population along 46 km of the Babai River in Bardia National Park. The UAV was flown at an altitude of 80 m along 12 pre-designed missions with a search effort of 2.72 hours of flight time acquired a total of 11,799 images covering an effective surface area of 8.2 km2 of river bank habitat. The images taken from the UAV could differentiate between gharial and muggers. A total count of 33 gharials and 31 muggers with observed density (per km2) of 4.64 and 4.0 for gharial and mugger respectively. Comparison of count data between one-time UAV and multiple conventional visual encounter rate surveys data showed no significant difference in the mean. Basking season and turbidity were important factors for monitoring crocodiles along the river bank habitat. Efficacy of monitoring crocodiles by UAV at the given altitude can be replicated in high priority areas with less operating cost and acquisition of high resolution data.



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