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Keywords:

  • abundance estimation;
  • Crocodylus niloticus;
  • detection probability;
  • double observer;
  • hierarchical model;
  • Lake Nasser;
  • sustainable utilization

Abstract

As part of the development of a management program for Nile crocodiles in Lake Nasser, Egypt, we used a dependent double-observer sampling protocol with multiple observers to compute estimates of population size. To analyze the data, we developed a hierarchical model that allowed us to assess variation in detection probabilities among observers and survey dates, as well as account for variation in crocodile abundance among sites and habitats. We conducted surveys from July 2008–June 2009 in 15 areas of Lake Nasser that were representative of 3 main habitat categories. During these surveys, we sampled 1,086 km of lake shore wherein we detected 386 crocodiles. Analysis of the data revealed significant variability in both inter- and intra-observer detection probabilities. Our raw encounter rate was 0.355 crocodiles/km. When we accounted for observer effects and habitat, we estimated a surface population abundance of 2,581 (2,239–2,987, 95% credible intervals) crocodiles in Lake Nasser. Our results underscore the importance of well-trained, experienced monitoring personnel in order to decrease heterogeneity in intra-observer detection probability and to better detect changes in the population based on survey indices. This study will assist the Egyptian government establish a monitoring program as an integral part of future crocodile harvest activities in Lake Nasser. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.