Listening and watching: do camera traps or acoustic sensors more efficiently detect wild chimpanzees in an open habitat?

Anne-Sophie Crunchant, David Borchers, Hjalmar Kühl, Alex Piel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


1.  With one million animal species at risk of extinction, there is an urgent need to regularly monitor threatened species. However, in practice this is challenging, especially with wide‐ranging, elusive and cryptic species or those that occur at low density.
2.  Here we compare two non‐invasive methods, passive acoustic monitoring (n=12) and camera trapping (n=53), to detect chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in a savanna‐woodland mosaic habitat at the Issa Valley, Tanzania. With occupancy modelling we evaluate the efficacy of each method, using the estimated number of sampling days needed to establish chimpanzee absence with 95% probability, as our measure of efficacy.
3.  Passive acoustic monitoring was more efficient than camera trapping in detecting wild chimpanzees. Detectability varied over seasons, likely due to social and ecological factors that influence party size and vocalisation rate. The acoustic method can infer chimpanzee absence with less than ten days of recordings in the field during the late dry season, the period of highest detectability, which was five times faster than the visual method.

4.  Synthesis and applications: Despite some technical limitations, we demonstrate that passive acoustic monitoring is a powerful tool for species monitoring. Its applicability in evaluating presence/absence, especially but not exclusively for loud call species, such as cetaceans, elephants, gibbons or chimpanzees provides a more efficient way of monitoring populations and inform conservation plans to mediate species‐loss.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-552
JournalMethods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number4
Early online date25 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Chimpanzee
  • Occupancy modelling
  • Passive acoustic monitoring
  • Savanna-woodland mosaic habitat
  • Seasonality
  • Tanzania
  • Videos
  • Vocalisations


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