Line transect sampling of primates: can animal-to-observer distance methods work?

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Line transect sampling is widely used for estimating abundance of primate populations. Animal-to-observer distances (AODs) are commonly used in analysis, in preference to perpendicular distances from the line. This is in marked contrast with standard practice for other applications of line transect sampling. We formalize the mathematical shortcomings of approaches based on AODs, and show that they are likely to give strongly biased estimates of density. We review papers that claim good performance for the method, and explore this performance through simulations. These confirm strong bias in estimates of density using AODs. We conclude that AOD methods are conceptually flawed, and that they cannot in general provide valid estimates of density.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-499
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number3
Early online date4 May 2010
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010


  • animal-to-observer distances
  • Distance sampling
  • Estimating primate density
  • Kelker strip
  • Modified Kelker method
  • Primate survey


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