Nicholas School Internship Blogs

Learning to Count: Part II
by -- July 23rd, 2013

The first half of the field study is over: we’ve moved the ten camera traps to new locations on the other side of the Neuras Estate. We had success with the first set of sites, but I’m ready for a change. Best of all, I’ll no longer have to deal with the springbok at Waterhole 3 near the Naukluft Mountains.

Data management is a big (perhaps the biggest) part of any field research and this camera-trap study is no exception. For every hour of actual work in the field, I estimate we spend three hours in front of the computer going through photos. Most of the time this work is entertaining, and it’s always exciting when we capture rare species. It’s not exciting, however, when you have up to 1000 consecutive photos of the same herd of springbok.

On game counts, we’ve identified as many as 106 springbok in a single herd on the Naukluft side of the estate. When they visit the nearby waterhole for a drink and dozens squeeze into the 20 meters of space between cameras, counting them accurately becomes a chore, especially when they keep moving in and out of view.

The only redeeming factor? We’ve turned counting springbbok into a competition to see who can identify the most in a single photo. The record stands at 48. Below are a couple of examples with my count in the caption.

See if you can beat me. It’s not easy. You can look for heads or horns. You can count white rumps, black stripes, tan backs, or twitching ears. No matter what you do, they always seem to blend together. Just remember, there’s no guesswork involved. Whatever your count, you must be absolutely certain that you haven’t over-counted.



A herd of springbok at a waterhole near the Naukluft Mountains on the Neuras Wine & WIldlife Estate. I count 47 individuals.

A herd of springbok at a waterhole near the Naukluft Mountains on the Neuras Wine & WIldlife Estate. I count 28 individuals.

Another herd of springbok at the Naukluft waterhole. I count 31 individuals.


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