Factors affecting the identification of individual mountain bongo antelope

  • Gibbon G
  • Bindemann M
  • Roberts D
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The recognition of individuals forms the basis of many endangered species monitoring protocols. This process typically relies on manual recognition techniques. This study aimed to calculate a measure of the error rates inherent within the manual technique and also sought to identify visual traits that aid identification, using the critically endangered mountain bongo, Tragelaphus eurycerus isaaci , as a model system. Identification accuracy was assessed with a matching task that required same/different decisions to side-by-side pairings of individual bongos. Error rates were lowest when only the flanks of bongos were shown, suggesting that the inclusion of other visual traits confounded accuracy. Accuracy was also higher for photographs of captive animals than camera-trap images, and in observers experienced in working with mountain bongos, than those unfamiliar with the sub-species. These results suggest that the removal of non-essential morphological traits from photographs of bongos, the use of high-quality images, and relevant expertise all help increase identification accuracy. Finally, given the rise in automated identification and the use of citizen science, something our results would suggest is applicable within the context of the mountain bongo, this study provides a framework for assessing their accuracy in individual as well as species identification.




Gibbon, G. E. M., Bindemann, M., & Roberts, D. L. (2015). Factors affecting the identification of individual mountain bongo antelope. PeerJ, 3, e1303. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1303

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