Please take a 60 second poll for Predator Biologist

Jul 23rd, 2008, 10:57 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 406
)Are you an experienced safari traveler or hoping for your first safari?


2)If a camp/lodge/operator gave you a wildlife checklist would you check off the species you have seen?


3)If the data from your checklist would help future travelers would that encourage you to check a list?

It would have to be a compelling argument. I think narrative descriptions as to when, how, etc. would be more useful to future travelers.

4)If data from your checklist would help monitor and conserve wildlife would that encourage you to check a list?

This would offer more of a compelling argument. But I would need to be convinced that this was being done in a rigorous manner that made the data "clean".

5)If a lodge/camp/operator gives monthly reports on what they see does that add interest in their operation?

Absolutely. Especially if done in a narrative manner. Someone above mentioned Remote Africa's joural in Zambia and it was very helpful. Especially when these journals occassionally state "we saw little game" on a particular walk or drive as this lends credibility in my mind.
GreenDrake is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2008, 03:01 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 6
1) Looking forward to my first safari to Botswana July 2009 (thanks in part to your valuable advice)
2) Doubtful--I'm more into experiencing than listing--
3) Probably not
4)Yes, definitely
5)Yes,it could influence me---
mmark14 is offline  
Jul 24th, 2008, 12:23 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,715
Thanks everyone for your generosity in participating in this little poll. In my career I have had some experience with citizen surveys and monitoring and I have also witnessed that there is never enough funding for needed research. The limited funds available typically only go to two places species that are revenue generators (usually hunted species) and those that are known to be endangered. That leaves a lot of species relatively unmonitored and a lot of guessing at their status. This all has me thinking that there is a lot of field hours being spent by tourists and could there be a way to gain some scientific and conservation value?

From the tourist angle, as Clematis alluded too, I was extremely frustrated when I carefully planned my first safari in 2003 and I stretched to pay the premium for Mombo Camp because I wanted to give myself the best opportunity to see wild dogs. At the time all the books, marketing material, and all 3 agents I consulted were unanimous that Mombo was the place to try for dogs. I booked my trip only 3 months before I went and on arrival the guides told me that wild dogs had not been seen in 2 years at Mombo. This left me wondering if there could be a much better, up to date source of wildlife planning information.

About 2 years ago I decided to work on constructing a safari community website (free to all) and the primary unique feature would be the ability for tourists and camps/lodges to report their sightings which could be useful to biologists, land managers, and tourists. I will explain my thoughts behind each question and how they apply to this community data concept. I should say there is a science to conducting polls but this was a quick off the cuff that I just kind of tossed out one day but the response was very interesting.

1)Are you an experienced safari traveler or hoping for your first safari?

This was just a simple division to see if there would be a significant difference in the answers of those who have been on safari vs. those who have not yet. Wow, what a huge difference there was. Those waiting for their first safari were almost all willing to keep a checklist and to help travelers (Questions 2 & 3) while experienced safari goers were about 50/50 on those questions.

2)If a camp/lodge/operator gave you a wildlife checklist would you check off the species you have seen?

This question was meant to simply ascertain how many people would keep a list of what they see just for their own interest. My thoughts are if you are recording the data anyway, which a bit more than of the respondents already are, that there is significant amounts of data recorded and that if there was a proper repository that data could be passed on with very little additional effort.

3)If the data from your checklist would help future travelers would that encourage you to check a list?

This question was meant to see if helping other travelers would serve as a motivating factor. I was surprised a bit that this purpose seemed to motivate no one as pretty much those already keeping a list in Question 2 said yes and those who were no for keeping a list stayed a no on this question. Considering the activity on the Fodors board is largely built around helping other tourists I would think the general safari goer would be even less willing to help other travelers than our population of people. To use my wild dog/Mombo planning fiasco as an example I envisioned the data submitted being sortable for tourists and I could have done a search and discovered that no one had recorded a wild dog sighting in 18 months illuminating the changed situaion. I could have then chosen a better camp for my desires and added more nights by dropping the expensive Mombo. Likewise, determining seasonal differences in sightings can be very difficult but with hard data tourists would be able to compare and see the success of viewing a species in September vs. April.

4)If data from your checklist would help monitor and conserve wildlife would that encourage you to check a list?

This is the true heart of my vision and the vast majority of people were motivated to contributing a list of sightings for science purposes. This was also the area hardest for people to envision and there were a few mentions of doubt over whether valuable data could be collected by tourists. Identification issues are a valid concern and clearly people view science data as something that needs to be clear and accurate and thus think scientists or at least guides should be doing such collection. It is correct that fine detailed research cannot be easily done by untrained tourists, but it can be extremely valuable to collect coarse filter data too. The aggregation of tourist data could reveal trends, which would help identify species or locations that are in need of detailed studies by qualified scientists. It would simply be recording what species were seen in a general area (such as a camp concession) during what month. From such data you cannot know that there were 124 lions and now there are 118 but it would identify a potential issue if lions were seen by 80% of tourists in Northern Botswana and 6 years later only 30% of tourists see them. Relationships between species may be evident at this data level as well over time. As Napa Matt stated Project Feederwatch is a very successful citizen data collection project. I have worked with citizens to monitor stream quality by examining the invertebrate communities as a course filter measure. There are many other examples where citizen data has been very useful and provided valuable data that never would have been funded.

A few people suggested that guides/rangers should be recording this data and I agree with that. At many locations they do but also some do not. However, as many people expressed a cynical worry that such data would be used for marketing purposes I like that the tourist data acts as a check to ensure no fudging by those in the tourism business. The two will not match but patterns would become evident if sightings data was being exaggerated. More data the better and this site would serve as a valuable reservoir that researchers, land managers and tourists could access.

5)If a lodge/camp/operator gives monthly reports on what they see does that add interest in their operation?

Most people did affirm that they appreciate sightings reports although there were a lot of comments about them being marketing fluff and not very accurate pictures of what could reasonably be expected to be seen. If they were to report actual percentages of days species are sighted as I am suggesting it would give the full breadth that people seem to want. Some camps that are perhaps not as prolific may be more reluctant to contribute such data which is another reason why I think it is important for tourists to submit their data.

I have done a lot of work on building this community site but it has been temporarily shelved as my focus has been forced elsewhere. The photographs that many of you have contributed for an online field guide would be a part of this site as well. It seems clear that many would submit data toward the wildlife monitoring but these results leave it a bit unclear if providing access to the data for tourist safari planning would work or if that would end up hindering the effort.

Thanks again to all of you for your participation.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Jul 24th, 2008, 03:46 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
Many thanks for coming back to us to explain your reasons for the query, your thought processes and also to feedback to us on questions we raised, such as mis-identification.

I see what you mean in that the data can have value even if it's not 100% accurate as it can be used as a rough indication of trends and seasonality of sightings.

As long as it is not misrepresented or misused I think it can only be a good thing.
Kavey is offline  
Jul 26th, 2008, 07:48 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 172
1) exp 2 trips
2) yes
3) yes
4) yes
5) yes
suzic is offline  
Jul 26th, 2008, 12:56 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 10
1. First trip 8/15/08
2. Yes
3. Yes
4. Yes
5. Yes
tripofalifetime is offline  
Jul 26th, 2008, 04:53 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 532
1. first trip 8/7/08
2. yes but will have my own notebook to record in for this trip
3. yes
4. definitely yes
5. perhaps not- no clear yes or no here to this question
chris45ny is offline  
Jul 26th, 2008, 05:40 PM
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 52
1. novice`2-5 yes
giblum is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 12:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,126
(1) Have visited many game parks on many trips to Africa, and seen many animals. Is that what you mean by "safari traveller" because it's not very clear to me.

2)For heavens sake, of course not.

3)See (2).

4)See (2). I suspect there are more than enough professionals on the ground. So this would be just another marketing tool.

5)Sure, it adds interest, but wouldn't necessarily impact on my choice of location. Mainly because Africa is more than animals.
afterall is offline  
Jul 27th, 2008, 01:33 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 69
after all it's just a survey not a solictation right... good one..

sorry i don'tknow
of course....
realoc is offline  

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