Camera trap used for surveying leopards in the Boland region of South Africa.

Some of the key questions in conservation of rare species are 'how many of them are there?' as well as understanding their habitat preferences and movement patterns. In order to find answers to these questions we combine data collected with new technologies with new analyses techniques that we develop at CREEM.

Jaguars, leopards, snow leopards and other large cats are monitored in their natural habitat by motion-triggered cameras. These images are used to create a log of capture-recapture records of the individual jaguars which is then analysed using spatially explicit capture recapture (SECR) methods.

Check out my spots!


Have a closer look at the jaguar in the mural and pay attention to the pattern of black spots. (It took me two full days to paint this pattern!) If you compare this pattern with that of any other jaguar you will find that they differ. In fact, each individual jaguar can be identified by its spot pattern (just like a human being by their fingerprint).

There are a few other animals in the mural that we can identify to the individual by using their markings. These are the humpback whale (pattern on the underside of the fluke), Blainville's beaked whale (markings on their back and dorsal fin), loggerhead turtle (pattern on their back), grey seal (pattern of spots) and giraffe (pattern of dark patches).

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University of St Andrews