© Katy Payne
KAKUM - GHANA
Counting what can't be seen
Acoustic monitoring can be used as an alternate method for estimating population size. The study in Kakum National Park was the first application of the method and results were highly encouraging.
National Park in Ghana was chosen as a site for field testing an acoustic monitoring system for forest elephants. It is a small park (135 sq. miles) surrounded by agriculture, containing a small population of forest elephants (roughly 250) rarely seen, but regularly monitored via dung counting. In 2000, a field study was initiated in Kakum, with the assistance of Dr. Richard Barnes, to estimate the size of the population within the park using the relationships and models established at Dzanga bai in Central African Republic. Population estimates based on acoustic monitoring were within the range of estimates based on both dung counting (Barnes 2000) and genetic analysis from dung (i.e., mark-recapture DNA techniques; Eggert et al. 2002). However, the acoustic method had less error associated with the estimate than either of the other techniques. These results suggest that acoustic monitoring can be used in place of dung counts and other current monitoring techniques. The results of this study were published in the African Journal of Ecology
Understanding the specifics of elephant behavior can help local conservation efforts
Analysis of recordings revealed a distinct elephant calling hot spot in the southeastern corner of the park (red star in map at the left), suggesting that the Kakum elephants favor that area. This kind of information is important to park managers and locals whose crops are sometimes raided by these elephants.
© Robert McCurdy