Identification of African antelope species: using thermographic videos to test the efficacy of real-time thermography

Goodenough, Anne E and Carpenter, William S and MacTavish, Lynne and MacTavish, Dougal and Hart, Adam G (2018) Identification of African antelope species: using thermographic videos to test the efficacy of real-time thermography. African Journal of Ecology. ISSN 0141-6707 (In Press)

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Real-time thermography using the live-view function of a thermal camera has considerable potential to improve surveys of nocturnal wildlife relative to traditional spotlighting, while also decreasing disturbance. However, ability to identify species accurately is paramount. We use video as a proxy for real-time thermography to test African antelope identification accuracy among 34 observers of differing experience. Overall accuracy was 41% but there were substantial species-specific differences (e.g. wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) = 81%; reedbuck (Redunca arundinum) = 12%). Observer experience was significantly positively related to accuracy (inexperienced = 30%; expert = 61%) with experienced observers being better able to use subtle movement and behavioural information to identify animals. However, the effect of experience was inconsistent between species: even experts found some species challenging (e.g. waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) where coat patterning was invisible thermographically). Self-assessed confidence did not correlate with accuracy. Observers who were good at identifying species were also good at assessing group size. We conclude that real-time thermography is not a “magic bullet” and the understanding of species-specific effectiveness is vital. However, for some species and some groups of observers, accuracy can be extremely high (e.g. 100% for expert observers viewing wildebeest). Tailored training is essential for real-time thermography to be a reliable field technique.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Goodenough AE, Carpenter WS, MacTavish L, Theron C, Delbridge M, Hart AG. Identification of African antelope species: Using thermographic videos to test the efficacy of real-time thermography. Afr J Ecol. 2018;00:1–10., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Antelope identification; Real-time thermography; Species identification; Survey tool; Wildlife monitoring
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology > QL605 Chordates. Vertebrates
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Natural & Social Sciences > Environmental Sciences
Research Priority Areas: Environmental Dynamics & Governance
Depositing User: Rhiannon Jones
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2018 10:03
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2018 07:27

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