Context. Monitoring is a key component in managing wildlife populations and is critical for revealing long-term population trends of endangered species. Cryptic or highly mobile species that occur in low densities and in remote terrain require the development of specific monitoring methods. The southern cassowary is an Australian endangered species that poses many challenges for conducting population surveys.
Aims. The aims of the present study were to determine the effectiveness of camera traps in detecting cassowaries at a site, to determine whether visual lures increased detection rates, and to explore the potential of camera traps in population surveys.
Methods. Coloured lures (mimicking large blue and red fruit) were placed in front of a set of camera traps and compared with controls (no lures) at 29 survey sites on the Daintree coast, northern Queensland, Australia.
Key results. Camera traps with lures (1) detected more birds, (2) had a shorter detection latency, (3) had a marginally greater number of captures, (4) experienced a longer capture duration, (5) were more likely to have the cassowary stop in front of the camera, and (6) achieved a 95% probability of detecting cassowaries in 12 trap days, compared with 28 trap days without lures.
Conclusions. An increase in the number of cassowaries detected, the reduction in camera latency times and the ability to identify the birds enables a more efficient approach to estimating population sizes over existing methods. This is the first published study to use visual lures to conduct camera trapping of birds.
Implications. The use of camera traps with lures is a practical and cost-efficient technique for the rapid detection of cassowaries at a site and lends itself to studies of population structure, size and trends.