The use of camera traps for estimating jaguar Panthera onca abundance and density using capture/recapture analysis

Scott C. Silver a1c1, Linde E. T. Ostro a2, Laura K. Marsh a3, Leonardo Maffei a4, Andrew J. Noss a4, Marcella J. Kelly a5, Robert B. Wallace a6, Humberto Gómez a6 and Guido Ayala a6
a1 WCS-Queens Zoo, 53-51 111th St., Flushing, NY 11368, USA
a2 WCS-Bronx Zoo, 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10460, USA
a3 Los Alamos National Laboratory, Ecology Group (RRES-ECO), Mail Stop M887, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87545, USA
a4 WCS-Bolivia, Casilla 6272, Santa Cruz, Bolivia
a5 106 Cheatham Hall, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0321, USA
a6 WCS-Bolivia, Casilla 3-35181, San Miguel, La Paz, Bolivia

Article author query
silver sc   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ostro let   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
marsh lk   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
maffei l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
noss aj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
kelly mj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
wallace rb   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gómez h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ayala g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Across their range jaguars Panthera onca are important conservation icons for several reasons: their important role in ecosystems as top carnivores, their cultural and economic value, and their potential conflicts with livestock. However, jaguars have historically been difficult to monitor. This paper outlines the first application of a systematic camera trapping methodology for abundance estimation of jaguars. The methodology was initially developed to estimate tiger abundance in India. We used a grid of camera traps deployed for 2 months, identified individual animals from their pelage patterns, and estimated population abundance using capture-recapture statistical models. We applied this methodology in a total of five study sites in the Mayan rainforest of Belize, the Chaco dry forest of Bolivia, and the Amazonian rainforest of Bolivia. Densities were 2.4–8.8 adult individuals per 100 km2, based on 7–11 observed animals, 16–37 combined ‘captures’ and ‘recaptures’, 486–2,280 trap nights, and sample areas of 107–458 km2. The sampling technique will be used to continue long-term monitoring of jaguar populations at the same sites, to compare with further sites, and to develop population models. This method is currently the only systematic population survey technique for jaguars, and has the potential to be applied to other species with individually recognizable markings.

(Received December 17 2002)
(Revised May 14 2003)
(Accepted September 5 2003)

Key Words: Amazonia; Belize; Bolivia; camera traps; census; Chaco; Panthera onca.

c1 Correspondence: WCS-Queens Zoo, 53-51 111th St., Flushing, NY 11368, USA. E-mail ssilver@wcs.org