Establishing the status of endangered species is a common problem for conservation agencies, especially if the species’ habitats are remote or hostile, or the species are difficult to find on account of their rarity, size, characteristics or habits.  The status of individual species changes over time, so even if a fair assessment of conservation status has been made once, it will need to be monitored or re-surveyed subsequently.

Surveys can also be designed to yield a host of other information about a species.  The amount of available information increases with the degree of disturbance to the species, such as using capture-mark-recapture techniques.  But even with negligible disturbance of the species, much can be learned beyond status.

Most survey techniques are relatively simple (although the statistical design behind them may not be) and many can be relatively cheap.  However, each survey requires considerable management, fieldwork and time, in addition to dealing with the challenges posed by difficult habitats.

It is important to prioritize amongst the many requirements for conservation surveys and to balance the important against the urgent. There is also the need to assess feasibility, examining requirement, field conditions and available resources.  There is a wide spectrum of options.  In order to avoid wasted efforts, great care must be taken in project selection, in assessing feasibility and in the survey statistical design.  There are many merits in having an experienced individual or organization guiding this work.

Bearing these qualifications in mind, surveys offer excellent opportunities for students and other concerned individuals of any age or stage to participate in voluntary active conservation work  for a specific purpose and for a defined period.  Given good management and often an element of luck, conservation survey projects can make a real, possibly critical, difference.

Two successful examples, Operation Hungul and Wild Eagle, are briefly described on this site.

© Dewar Donnithorne-Tait 2015