Wildlife monitoring plays a critical role in evaluating the management and conservation of biodiversity. During monitoring activities in Chinese nature reserves dedicated to giant panda conservation, indirect sign surveys along fixed transects are the standard methodology used to monitor large-mammal populations. Camera-trapping has been recently introduced to these reserves as an additional monitoring tool. We present a case study of comparing current sign-transect monitoring with camera-trapping in Wanglang National Nature Reserve, China, from September 2004 through October 2005, and we assess the effectiveness of both methods in detecting terrestrial fauna. Camera-trapping detected 21 mammal species, while sign transects detected 16 species. We found no significant difference in the animal community detected by each method; however, sign transects were weighted toward detecting large-sized animals. Each survey technique had different strengths; therefore, a combined sampling of camera-trapping (800 camera-days) and sign transects (80 km) was sufficient to detect 95% of detectable large, terrestrial mammal species within this 323-km2 reserve. Our estimate of species richness based on camera-trapping (39.0 ± 13.6 species) and sign transects (20.0 ± 4.4 species) suggests that camera-trapping can detect more species when extensive sampling effort is employed by both methods. Camera-trapping also has the potential for more robust estimates of population parameters than are possible with sign transects. We propose that the giant panda reserves in China can increase their efficiency and range of species monitored by using a system that integrates camera-trapping with sign transects. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.
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