YORK (August 31, 2010) – With a simple
click of the camera, scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological
Society of London have developed a new way to accurately monitor long-term trends
in rare and vanishing species over large landscapes.
Called the “Wildlife
Picture Index,” (WPI) the methodology collects images from remote “camera traps,”
which automatically photograph anything that lopes, waddles, or slinks past. These virtual photo albums – sometimes
containing thousands of photos of dozens of species – are then run through a statistical
analysis to produce metrics for diversity and distribution of a broad range of
traps are already used by conservationists to track individual species or to survey
wildlife in small protected areas, this study marks the first time they have
been used to scientifically measure long-term trends of multiple species on a
The study appears in the August, 2010 issue
of the journal Animal Conservation. Authors include: Tim O’Brien and Linda
Krueger of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Jonathan Baille of the Zoological
Society of London, and Melissa Cuke of the University of British Columbia.
The WPI was
designed to meet the future needs of the Convention of Biological Diversity,
(CBD) a treaty signed by 188 countries to reduce the rate of biodiversity
“The Wildlife Picture Index is an
effective tool in monitoring trends in wildlife diversity that previously could
only be roughly estimated,” said the study’s lead author, Tim O’Brien of the
Wildlife Conservation Society. “This
new methodology will help conservationists determine where to focus their efforts
to help stem the tide of biodiversity loss over broad landscapes.”
The authors used
the WPI to track changes in wildlife diversity over a 10-year period in Bukit
Barisan Selatan National Park in southwest Sumatra, Indonesia. The 1,377 square-mile park contains the
last remaining tracts of protected lowland forest in Sumatra – important
habitat for large mammals including Sumatran tigers, rhinoceros, and Asian
elephants. It is also threatened
by poaching, illegal logging, and agriculture.
After running the
statistical analysis of some 5,450 images of 25 mammals and one terrestrial
bird species photographed throughout the park, the Wildlife Picture Index showed
a net decline of 36 percent of the park’s biodiversity. In addition, the analysis revealed that
wildlife loss outpaced the rate of deforestation; and that large, commercially
valuable wildlife such as tigers, rhinos, and elephants declined faster than small
primates and deer, which are only hunted only as crop raiders or for subsistence.
authors not only believe the WPI can be used to assess biodiversity in large
ecosystems throughout the world, it can also help redefine how camera traps
have been used for wildlife conservation.
Picture Index will allow conservationists to accurately measure biodiversity in
areas that previously have been either too expensive, or logistically
prohibitive,” said John Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President for Conservation
and Science. “We believe that this
new methodology will be able to fill critical gaps in knowledge of wildlife diversity
while providing much-needed baseline data to assess success or failure in
places where we work.”
“We expect that the Wildlife Picture
Index can be implemented and maintained as a relatively low cost per species
monitored and provide important insights into the fate of rainforest and
savannah biodiversity,” O’Brien said.
Contact: Stephen Sautner: (1-718-220-3682; firstname.lastname@example.org)John Delaney: (1-718-220-3275; email@example.com)
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