Pilot tests of distance sampling method for tamaraw dungs
The development of alternative census method for tamaraw in Mts Iglit-Baco Natural Park is a major target of the Protected Area General Management Plan and Tamaraw Conservation and Management Action Plan in order to reduce grassland burning associated with the traditional count. DAF is on the upfront to support the DENR on that matter together with its international scientific partners.
In collaboration with TCP and MIBNP PAMO, DAF TCRO conducted a pilot study of distance sampling of dungs using the double observer method along transect lines. This methodology consists of two teams covering the same transect and taking data on the number of feces they can find. It aims at measuring a detectability rate based on the results’ difference between both survey teams.
To do so, we conducted three missions within the Core Zone of Monitoring of MIBNP between November 2010 and February 2020 in order to design the best methodology according to the constraint and possibilities of the area. We tested first the independent double observer protocols (the two teams conduct same transect at 30 minutes interval, with no interaction between front and back team) then implemented the dependent double observed protocol (back team add observations missed by the front team by watching them). Results of these pilot missions prove that the dependent protocol fits more the constraints of the overall method in the landscape of MIBNP.
For the final pilot study, 30 transects were plot semi randomly covering most of the latest assessed tamaraw presence. Preparations were done to organize teams, logistic and itinerary. TCP rangers, PAMO rangers, DAF team and representatives from the IP community ended up covering more than 80 km inside the Core Zone of the Monitoring. We could complete 29 of the 30 transects planned. This mission allowed us also to understand the socio-ecological situation in different parts of the area, finding old poachers camps, spear and snare traps for small mammals and ungulates from residing IPs, and also traps for monkeys.
All the information recorded will be thoroughly analyzed. Results will indicate a density of dungs that will reflect the relative abundance of the species.
Distance sampling is one of the alternative proposed methods for tamaraw population assessment and monitoring. It will help move to a more sustainable management of the park by allowing non-invasive habitat intervention, while providing estimate of its abundance.