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A comparison of derived population estimate, mark-resighting and distance sampling methods to determine the population size of a desert ungulate, the Arabian oryx

  • Philip J. Seddon, Khairy Ismail (a1), Mohammed Shobrak (a1), Stephane Ostrowski (a1) and Chris Magin (a2)...

Abstract

Post-release monitoring, including abundance estimation, is an important part of reintroductions, providing a basis for management intervention designed to achieve long-term persistence. The Arabian oryx Oryx leucoryx became extinct in the wild in 1972, surviving as captive populations. Since 1982 reintroductions of Arabian oryx have taken place in Oman and Saudi Arabia. Modelling of oryx population dynamics has highlighted the importance of precise estimation of population size (N). Between 1990 and 2000 three methods of estimating N have been applied in Mahazat as-Sayd protected area in Saudi Arabia: derived population estimates (DPE) based on known births and deaths, distance sampling, and mark-resighting (MR). This study assesses the feasibility and precision of these methods. Inability to assess precision, interdependence of consecutive estimates, and the assumption that all gains and losses are recorded, make DPE of limited value. At current densities, distance sampling along 455 km of driven transects yields too few detections to derive precise estimates of N. To achieve a coefficient of variation of 20% it would be necessary to drive up to c. 2,900 km of transect; this amount of survey effort could be achieved through pooling of data across repeat surveys of established transects. MR estimates, based on re-sighting of collared oryx, have the potential to yield the most precise estimates of N when the proportion of marked animals reaches 30% of the total population. The most reliable MR estimates available indicate the Mahazat as-Sayd Arabian oryx population had grown to >400 animals by 2000.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. E-mail philip.seddon@stonebow.otago.ac.nz

A comparison of derived population estimate, mark-resighting and distance sampling methods to determine the population size of a desert ungulate, the Arabian oryx

  • Philip J. Seddon, Khairy Ismail (a1), Mohammed Shobrak (a1), Stephane Ostrowski (a1) and Chris Magin (a2)...

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