Drone-based effective counting and ageing of hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) in the Okavango Delta in Botswana

Autoři: Victoria L. Inman aff001;  Richard T. Kingsford aff001;  Michael J. Chase aff002;  Keith E. A. Leggett aff001
Působiště autorů: Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia aff001;  Elephants Without Borders, Kasane, Botswana aff002;  Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia aff003
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(12)
Kategorie: Research Article
prolekare.web.journal.doi_sk: 10.1371/journal.pone.0219652


Accurately estimating hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) numbers is difficult due to their aggressive nature, amphibious lifestyle, and habit of diving and surfacing. Traditionally, hippos are counted using aerial surveys and land/boat surveys. We compared estimates of numbers of hippos in a lagoon in the Okavango Delta, counted from land to counts from video taken from a DJI Phantom 4TM drone, testing for effectiveness at three heights (40 m, 80 m, and 120 m) and four times of day (early morning, late morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon). In addition, we determined effectiveness for differentiating age classes (juvenile, subadult, and adult), based on visual assessment and measurements from drone images, at different times and heights. Estimates in the pool averaged 9.18 (± 0.25SE, range 1–14, n = 112 counts). Drone counts at 40 m produced the highest counts of hippos, 10.6% higher than land counts and drone counts at 80 m, and 17.6% higher than drone counts at 120 m. Fewer hippos were counted in the early morning, when the hippos were active and most likely submerged, compared to all other times of day, when they tended to rest in shallow water with their bodies exposed. We were able to assign age classes to similar numbers of hippos from land counts and counts at 40 m, although land counts were better at identifying juveniles and subadults. Early morning was the least effective time to age hippos given their active behaviour, increasingly problematic with increasing height. Use of a relatively low-cost drone provided a rigorous and repeatable method for estimating numbers and ages of hippos, other than in the early morning, compared to land counts, considered the most accurate method of counting hippos.

Klíčová slova:

Aircraft – Botswana – Cameras – Covariance – Lagoons – Surveys – Wildlife – Shallow water


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