The application of camera trapping to assess Rallidae species richness within palustrine wetland habitat in South Africa
Wetlands are vital habitats for a variety of organisms and ecosystem services, but the health of these valuable habitats is declining worldwide. The Rallidae species that rely on these habitats are typically elusive, cryptic and difficult to monitor accurately, especially in dense wetland vegetation. To date, invasive survey techniques such as rope dragging have largely been applied in surveying species within these genera. A survey of palustrine wetland habitat using camera traps was implemented to ascertain the efficacy of this non-invasive monitoring technique for surveying elusive wetland avian species. The survey yielded a total of 445 independent sightings across 15 target wetland species, including four Rallidae species. Our results clearly display that camera trapping as a non-invasive survey technique can effectively determine the presence and monitor arguably the most cryptic and elusive of the Rallidae genera within southern Africa. In addition, data sets produced through this survey technique are unique in that robust data are collected incorporating numerous aspects of species biology and behaviour. Our study further demonstrated the ability of camera trapping to produce accurate, reliable and rapid species inventories within palustrine wetland habitats.
Keywords: camera trapping, conservation, non-invasive, rallid, species richness, wetlands