The Trans-Kalahari Predator Programme (TKPP), based out of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), has embarked on a three-year journey to survey all large carnivores in the Okavango Delta. This project, known as The Okavango Carnivore Survey, is aimed at producing reliable estimates of the region’s five large carnivores, namely lion, leopard, spotted hyaena, African wild dog and cheetah, using camera-trap technology. Such an ambitious task requires considerable logistical support, which is why the Conservation Department of Wilderness Safaris agreed to partner with the TKPP team in an effort to support the survey in certain areas. Aside from surveying large carnivores, the survey was the ideal opportunity to also assess some of the lesser known, nocturnal and elusive species.
The survey involved an astounding 180 cameras, placed in a measured grid across various areas, with additional cameras provided by Wilderness Safaris to increase the coverage of the survey. TKPP and Wilderness formed joint teams, who over a period of one week, set up camera-trap stations spaced two kilometres apart across vast areas of true wilderness. Each station consisted of two cameras, each placed on either side of a road or a prominent game trail, and which worked 24 hours to record all species that crossed their path using motion-triggered sensors.
This twin-camera system allows for capture of both sides of target animals, which for carnivores, assists in individual identification. The number of individually identified animals recorded in the traps can then be used to produce density estimates of the target species, which is of considerable value for large carnivore conservation in the region.