Environmental influences and habitat associations of reticulated giraffes as revealed by camera traps

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2021-04-28

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Camera trapping has been used in recent years as a means of assessing species population size and distributions, habitat use, and behavior, thus facilitating knowledge and protection of wildlife and natural ecosystems. One disadvantage of camera trapping is recording false absences, whereby the species is present but not detected by the camera. Dynamic occupancy modeling can be used as an accurate method to address this bias and produce reliable estimates of site occupancy, colonization rates, and extinction rates. These metrics are critical for applications in long-term monitoring programs and meta-population studies and can contribute to species conservation efforts. This study utilizes camera trapping images from Loisaba Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya between 2016 and 2017. The objectives of this study are threefold: (1) to utilize dynamic occupancy modeling to assess the habitat and environmental correlates influencing the probability of reticulated giraffe occurrence at camera trap sites, (2) to assess whether the presence of livestock displaces giraffe, and (3) to assess the habitat and environmental covariates that impact the presence or absence of giraffe at camera trap sites. This study found that the most significant predictor of declining giraffe presence was year, potentially as a result of the severe drought Kenya experienced in 2017. I also present evidence that giraffes do avoid locations that have recently been occupied by livestock. Understanding the environmental influences and habitat associations of reticulated giraffes is critical for providing information about population changes over time and the factors driving those changes. Thus, this information will increase ecological knowledge of the reticulated giraffe and subsequently aid in their conservation.

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Egna, Nicole (2021). Environmental influences and habitat associations of reticulated giraffes as revealed by camera traps. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22646.


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