Conservation agencies rely on accurate wildlife population estimates to inform managementpractices. The importance of accuracy increases with smaller, threatened populations, butso too does the challenge in achieving it, especially for evasive species in low-visibilityterrain. Non-invasive survey techniques have been successfully applied in such conditions;however, each technique bears a unique set of limitations and often deliver different results.The shy Knysna elephants (Loxodonta africana)occur at extremely low numbers in difficultterrain, and the past few decades have seen debates raging about their numbers, fuelled inpart by differing survey outcomes, although a decline has been apparent over the last 150years. We surveyed the known range of the Knysna elephant population for 15 months(July 2016 – October 2017), using camera traps, and identified one adult female elephant.The reliability of using camera trapping for surveying animal populations in conditionssuch as the Knysna elephant is compared with the previous faecal DNA genotypingsurvey. We conclude that this population has declined to a single individual and discuss theimplications for local conservation authorities. Additionally, we highlight the importance of designing rigorous survey approaches where only a few individual animals are present.
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