Camera Trapping the Critically Endangered Gharial

Trail Cameras...... these wonder gizmos are just about forest areas that is. Used traditionally for large and medium sized mammal surveys, camera trapping has captured photographs of the enigmatic tiger, leopard, jaguar, snow leopard, bears, elephants, beavers, foxes, wolves, moose....and the list goes on. Synonymous with trail cameras are terminologies like spatial capture - recapture, trail monitoring, large mammal surveys, medium mammal surveys, small mammal surveys.......and so on and so forth. All you have to do is Google and you will see what I mean. India's Tiger Censuses are based on camera traps exploiting  pelage patterns of tigers and leopards in Africa and studies on Jaguars in South America use camera traps too. Protocols for studying mammals using these wonder devices are well developed with sound statistics. Not so for crocodiles.

Down the line I started feeling a bit left out.......I mean I was studying one of the most endangered crocodiles in the world - the critically endangered Gharial in Corbett Tiger Reserve where camera traps were used by the tiger dudes .... more than left out I was feeling a bit lonely!!!

Studying the gharial meant moving along the shoreline by boat and counting the crocs as well as using vantage points for stationary counts. Not bad.....I photographed each croc with photos geo-tagged with a geotagger and using a method by the great Harry Messel estimated the number of gharial. 

Real Simple. But as I moved along there were areas where gharial would bask but would be inaccessible for me to count them. I struggled with the options of getting some help with a field assistant or two but no such luck. 

Well, I kinda got thinking about these trail cameras and thought that if I placed them near gharial basking sites...they could function like observers. Obviously motion detection would not work so I would have to opt for the time-lapse function. Not bad as this would give me stationary counts at trap locations. 

Well.....the idea was nice but had never been used to monitor gharial before let alone estimate a gharial population. Using trail cameras for counting crocodiles ....... if I sent that out to my supporters I think they would have certified me cuckoo!!!

Just having to give it a shot in the field, I first used three time lapse trail cameras. The results were amazing and data was analyzed using the Two - Phase Sampling Method popularly known as Double Sampling to estimate the largest population of gharial in Corbett at Dhikala

It's been a nice road from that season back in 2013 and I continue to refine the camera trapping techniques we are using in Corbett and my supporters have been wonderful. I now have Night Vision IR trail cameras with timelapse functions...... and a first for gharial estimation work..... camera trapping. 

Woah.... It really feels awesome being able to camera trap the critically endangered gharial .. top of the world.

Well, I do hope you like the time lapse trail camera images which I have uploaded for you...and stay tuned !!!

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