Selection of line-transect methods for estimating the density of group-living animals: lessons from the primates



We review the four major contemporary methods for estimating density of group-living animals from line-transect sampling: perpendicular modelling of group centers, perpendicular modelling of center of measurable individuals, strip transects and animal–observer distance. The efficacy of each method is evaluated to produce a simple selection guide. We review the literature and use field data from the Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania. The review is relevant to all group-living animals; however, examples are drawn from the primates. Perpendicular methods have better mathematical justification than non-perpendicular methods. For perpendicular methods using detection function models, it is preferable to measure group location using center of measurable individuals, as group centers are hard to estimate. The assumptions of detection function models are often broken in poor visibility habitats or with unhabituated animals. Alternatively strip transects may be used where there are reliable data on group spread and/or visibility. Strip transects are also the most practical, along with the animal–observer method; however, the latter lacks mathematical justification. We conclude that there are arguments for continued use of all four methods. In certain situations the use of raw encounter rates may also be considered. The appropriate method is determined by minimizing bias and considering time, resources and field conditions. Am. J. Primatol. 70:452–462, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.