Counting cats – new Lion Landscapes research

May 30, 2022

Have you ever thought about how we count cats (and other wildlife) in the field? Counting wildlife is critical to inform conservation management – and ensure that our activities are having an impact. Traditionally, spotted cats are the easiest to count: they have distinct, unique spot patterns, which allows you to identify individuals in photographs; this means that across a season or across multiple years, you can count how many times one individual has been photographed, and then use complex statistical methods to calculate population sizes. But what to do about species where individuals don’t have unique identifying spot patterns?

Our Lion Landscapes team has been figuring out how we can count lions in southern Tanzania, and recently published a study explaining how they did it. By using high-intensity ‘white’ (xenon) flashes on camera traps, and using a combination of unique markings, scars, and whisker spot patterns, the team showed that it is possible to calculate lion density from camera trapping studies. Read the study authors’ Lion Landscapes blog here, or the full article.

  • © Paolo Strampelli