Category Archives: 4 The Art of Tracking

Smartphone Icon User Interface design for non-literate trackers and its implications for an inclusive citizen science

backwards-compatible

Louis LiebenbergJustin Steventon!Nate BrahmanKarel BenadieJames MinyeHorekhwe (Karoha) LangwaneQuashe (/Uase) Xhukwe

Abstract

In 1996 we developed an Icon User Interface design for handheld computers that enabled non-literate trackers to enter complex data. When employed in large numbers over extended periods of time, trackers can gather large quantities of complex, rich biodiversity data that cannot be gathered in any other way. One significant result in the Congo was that data collected by trackers made it possible to alert health authorities to outbreaks of Ebola in wild animal populations, weeks before they posed a risk to humans. Trackers can also play a critical role in preventing the decimation of large mammal fauna due to poaching. Collectively, the seven case studies reviewed in this paper demonstrate the richness and complexity of scientific data contributed by community-based citizen science. Furthermore, trackers can also make novel contributions to science, demonstrated by scientific papers co-authored by trackers. This may have far-reaching implications for the development of an inclusive citizen science. Community-based tracking can significantly contribute to large-scale, long-term monitoring of biodiversity on a worldwide basis. However, community-based citizen science in developing countries will require international support to be sustainable.

Download pdf of paper here…

 

The challenge of monitoring elusive large carnivores: An accurate and cost-effective tool to identify and sex pumas (Puma concolor) from footprints

journal.pone.0172065.g003

Sky Alibhai , Zoe Jewell , Jonah Evans

Abstract

 

Acquiring reliable data on large felid populations is crucial for effective conservation and management. However, large felids, typically solitary, elusive and nocturnal, are difficult to survey. Tagging and following individuals with VHF or GPS technology is the standard approach, but costs are high and these methodologies can compromise animal welfare. Such limitations can restrict the use of these techniques at population or landscape levels. In this paper we describe a robust technique to identify and sex individual pumas from footprints. We used a standardized image collection protocol to collect a reference database of 535 footprints from 35 captive pumas over 10 facilities; 19 females (300 footprints) and 16 males (235 footprints), ranging in age from 1–20 yrs. Images were processed in JMP data visualization software, generating one hundred and twenty three measurements from each footprint. Data were analyzed using a customized model based on a pairwise trail comparison using robust cross-validated discriminant analysis with a Ward’s clustering method. Classification accuracy was consistently > 90% for individuals, and for the correct classification of footprints within trails, and > 99% for sex classification. The technique has the potential to greatly augment the methods available for studying puma and other elusive felids, and is amenable to both citizen-science and opportunistic/local community data collection efforts, particularly as the data collection protocol is inexpensive and intuitive.

Read article here…

PLOS-One

PlosONE. Published: March 8, 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0172065

In Memory of !Nate Brahman

nate

It was with great sadness that I learnt that !Nate Brahman had passed away on 20 January 2016, the week before I arrived at Lone Tree to visit him. I have known !Nate since 1985 and he played a key role in inspiring our efforts to create employment opportunities for trackers, including the development of the Tracker Certification and the CyberTracker software. In 1990 I ran the persistence hunt with !Nate, who risked his own life to save mine when I suffered from life-threatening heat exhaustion. !Nate featured in a number of TV documentaries, including the famous BBC film on the persistence hunt presented by David Attenborough. For more than 30 years he has been one of my closest friends, longer than any other friend I have known. We would like to express our condolences to !Nate’s wife !Nasi, his children, his family and friends. His passing is a great loss to tracking.

Louis Liebenberg

 

A New Generation of Master Trackers

Mark&Adriaan

Today we are pleased to announce that Adriaan Louw, South Africa, and Mark Elbroch, USA, have been awarded Master Tracker certificates in recognition of their exceptional contribution to the growth of the art of tracking. They represent a new generation of Master Trackers who is taking the art of tracking into the future – a tradition that goes back hundreds of thousands of years and which may otherwise have died out with the last hunter-gatherers.

CyberTracker will in future recognize five categories of Master Trackers. We honour them not so much as individuals on their own, but for the contribution they have made collectively to the art of tracking as a whole. The different categories of Master Trackers complement one another. Together they have contributed to the growth of tracking in a way that no single individual could have achieved working alone. Significant attributes of the Master Tracker includes humility, wisdom, generosity and the desire to contribute to the growth of others.

The full range of attributes of the Master Tracker categories will in due course be documented and published on the CyberTracker website. A brief summary of the most important attributes include:

Elder Master Tracker

The Master Tracker certificate was created in honour of the memory of the elder generation of indigenous hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari. The Elder Master Trackers were hunter-gatherers who may have passed away before they were officially recognized under the CyberTracker evaluation system, or those who may still be alive but due to old age and poor eyesight may no longer be able to track as well as they did when they were younger. These include the late !Nam!kabe Molote of Lone Tree, Botswana, !Namka and /Xantsue of Bere, Botswana, /Dzau /Dzaku and Xa//nau of Groot Laagte, Botswana, Bahbah, Jehjeh and Hewha, Ngwatle Pan, Botswana, Tso!oma, Ganamasi and Mutsabapu of Old Xade, Central Kalahari, Botswana, !Nani //Kxao, Ghau ≠Oma and Tsisaba Debe of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, Namibia.

Indigenous Master Tracker

The Indigenous Master Tracker was or still is an indigenous hunter, using the persistence hunting method and/or the traditional poison bow-and-arrow in a hunter-gatherer context.

Master Tracker: Exceptional Practical Skill and Expertise

A Master Tracker who did not practice traditional hunting, but have demonstrated exceptional practical skill and expertise in tracking. In future the minimum requirements will include at least ten years experience after achieving the Senior Tracker certificate, during which time he or she mentored younger trackers, thereby making a contribution to the growth of tracking.

Master Tracker: Exceptional Contribution to the Growth of the Art of Tracking

A Master Tracker who contributed to the growth of tracking through the mentoring, evaluation and certification of a significant number of trackers. The minimum requirements include at least ten years experience after achieving the Senior Tracker certificate, during which time he or she mentored younger trackers, and issued a large number of tracker certificates, thereby making a significant contribution to the growth of tracking.

Master Tracker: Original Contribution to the Art of Tracking

A Master Tracker who contributed to the growth of tracking through original publications, including books and/or scientific papers, or developing new technology and/or applying technology to tracking in an innovative way, or achieving a PhD that involved the application of tracking. The minimum requirements include at least ten years experience after achieving the Senior Tracker certificate, during which time he or she published original new knowledge on the art of tracking and/or applying innovative technology to tracking, thereby making a significant contribution to the growth of tracking.

Louis Liebenberg, 23 March, 2015

Early Days of CyberTracker

This video from ABC News: Tracking Animals With GPS from the year 2000 takes us back to the early days of CyberTracker. At that time, we had one CyberTracker running on an Apple Newton unit in the Karoo National Park in South Africa and just started our second project with the Kwe San Bushmen in Namibia, using the PalmPilot.

Video: ABC News – Tracking Animals With GPS

ABC-News

National Otter Survey of Ireland Recommends CyberTracker Certification for Europe

otter

The European Commission Habitats Directive requires that changes in the conservation status of designated species are monitored. Nocturnal and elusive species are difficult to count directly and thus population trajectories are inferred by variation in the incidence of field signs.

The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), listed by the IUCN as ‘near threatened’, is monitored throughout Europe using the ‘Standard Otter Survey’ method. The report explores the reliability of this approach by analysing species incidence throughout Ireland.

Surveillance of wild animal populations is notoriously problematic due to the difficulty in detecting individuals directly and the associated costs of surveying remote areas or rough terrain. For nocturnal and elusive species, researchers frequently sacrifice quantifying abundance and concentrate on determining patch occupancy. Consequently, indirect survey methods that record species presence using tracks, faeces or scent markings have become standard protocol for many species. These have comparatively low costs and, therefore, are widely used not only for assessing distribution and abundance but also in studies of habitat selection, behaviour and diet. However, binary presence/absence data are vulnerable to both Type I (false positive), and more significantly, Type II (false negative) errors.

False positives occur when the target species is recorded erroneously, for example by the misidentification of scats or where transient individuals are detected but are not resident whilst false negatives occur when the target species goes undetected at a site at which it occurs due to the apparent absence of field signs. Such errors can result in highly biased estimates of site occupancy, population size and habitat use. False positives can be avoided by surveyor training and testing as provided by the CyberTracker Certification used in the USA to quantify the skills of field observers (see http://trackercertification.com) or by independent verification, for example, DNA testing faeces to confirm the target species identity.

Quantifying the skills of observers working on wildlife surveys to be used as an explanatory variable in data analysis would be helpful. Thus, it is essential to accurately record the identity of surveyors and estimate their reliability during pre-survey training. For otter surveys throughout Europe, it may be beneficial to develop a similar programme to that offered by the CyberTracker Certification in the USA to provide an objective test of an observer’s reliability (see http://trackercertification.com).

Read the full Report here…