Module 1: Camera Trap Surveys

An on-line resource for practitioners



About this course

Reliable assessments of snow leopard populations are key for their conservation. Camera trapping is state-of-the-art approach to monitor rare and elusive species, such as snow leopards. Our Module 1 aims to equip participants with the knowledge and tools to plan and carry out a rigorous camera trap survey for assessing snow leopard population abundance/density. We will be sharing the latest recommended methods adopted by the PAWS GSLEP Programme. The module will cover key concepts underlying spatial capture recapture methods.

This course was conducted live through on-line sessions with Snow Leopard Network participants in July 2020. The training took place over 4 sessions (each 2.5 hour) corresponding to key learnings necessary for designing and carrying out camera trap surveys with spatial capture recapture. The recordings from this live training are now available below. Do follow the outlined structure of the course as each session builds on each other. In total the course consists of 10 hours of video presentation and discussion

This Module is offered thanks to our collaboration with the GSLEP Programme.

Skills you will gain

        • Basic sampling techniques
        • Spacial Capture Recapture principles
        • Planning a camera trap survey
        • Managing your camera trap data
        • Identifying snow leopard individuals rigorously 
        • Analyzing your camera trap data through Spatial Capture Recapture 

Meet the Trainers

Dr. Koustubh Sharma: Koustubh is the International Coordinator of the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program and a Senior Regional Ecologist with the Snow Leopard Trust. He, along with Justine help coordinate Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards (PAWS) as a GSLEP initiative. He holds a PhD in Wildlife Zoology from Mumbai University, and a Masters degree in Physics. He has undergone training on spatial capture recapture methods at the Centre for Research in Ecological and Environmental Research (CREEM), University of St. Andrews, and on advanced applications of ArcGIS by ESRI. He has been involved with colleagues and partners in developing training tool-kits and delivering training workshops for a suite of ecological methods relevant for snow leopard research and conservation.

Dr. Justine Shanti Alexander: Justine is the Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Network. She provides technical support to the world population assessment of snow leopards (PAWS) and other efforts related to camera trapping. Justine also acts as the Regional Ecologist for the Snow Leopard Trust and supports research and conservation work across the snow leopard range. She holds a PhD in snow leopard population assessments from Beijing Forestry University and a MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London. 

I am currently working with my team on assessing the status of snow leopard populations in North West China. This course was important for my work as it provided me with a better understanding of the theory and processes behind SCR models. I believe this course will help researchers and conservationists in designing snow leopard survey design and followup data analysis.

Wang Jun, China 

My work focusses on reducing human-carnivore conflicts across snow leopard areas of North India. This course provided me with a strong foundation for monitoring snow leopards. It enhanced my knowledge and skills and provided me with practical tools for assessing snow leopard abundance. This is vital for informing our conservation efforts.

Iftikhar, India

Session 1


Session 1 focusses on the basics of sampling– as we believe that these are key building blocks to understand the WHYS and the HOWS for assessing the abundance of snow leopard populations with camera traps. Part 2 takes participants through a practical where we use participant heights and lego to explore sampling.  


Part 1: Sampling Basics

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Part 2: Lego Practical Exercise




Part 3: Sampling Needs & Designs

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Session 2

Spatial Capture Recapture

Session 2 introduces participants to the principles of Spatial Capture Recapture (SCR). In Part 1 Koustubh Sharma introduces SCR in the context of assessing snow leopard abundance and uses a simulated snow leopard population dataset to explain SCR key parameters. We end the session by discussing SCR assumptions.

In Part 2 Koustubh Sharma and our guest speaker- Dr. David Borchers– will take us through the Why and the How of assessing the global snow leopard population. We will discover the story of why (and when) the initiative of Population Assessment of the World’s Snow leopards (PAWS) emerged. We will also discuss how PAWS can be achieved, including key ideas of spatial capture-recapture (SCR) and the power of SCR to analyse survey data. Finally we will cover the latest developments in this fast-developing area of research.

As preparation for this Session please read the Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopard (PAWS) Guidelines: Download PAWS guidelines.  

Part 1: Introduction to Spatial Capture Recapture

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Part 2: Population Assessment of the World’s Snow Leopards: The Why & How

Session 3

Interpretation & Data Processing

Session 3 starts by discussing how we can apply SCR principles to best design our snow leopard camera trap surveys. We share different camera trap survey sampling strategies and how they may influence the precision and accuracy of our results. We then change gears and discuss how we can collect high quality camera trap data in order to maximize the individual identification of snow leopard individuals. We also discuss how to efficiently process our camera trap images. We end by discussion how errors in our snow leopard identification can bias our results. 

As preparation for this Session please practice using the PAWS training tool for individual Identification ( Create a profile and login. Please complete 15-20 snow leopard identification trials before next week and come prepared to report your “Accuracy” and “Confidence level”.

Also if you can please check out the program Digikam- a user friendly program that allows for easy photo comparison and tagging (https://www. Refer to Part 3 for details. 

Part 1: Spatial Capture Recapture interpretation and designs

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Part 2: Without good data our models have limited value; improving the quality of our camera trap data

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Part 3: The individual identification process

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Part 4: Misidentifying snow leopards in Spatial Capture Recapture

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Session 4

SCR Analysis

Session 4 focusses on how to analyze our data using the SCR package in R. Part 1 takes participants through the basics of preparing the needed SCR input files for analysis. Part 2 discusses the principles behind defining your SCR mask for analysis. Part 3 goes back to using R code to complete an SCR analysis and estimate abundance using the standard model. Part 4 explores  how co-variates can be incorporated into the analysis in order to assess variations of Density and Lambda0.  

As preparation for this module check out the PAWS cheat sheet for planning your camera trap surveys: Micro Level Design: Download PDF. The cheat sheet manual is a simple walk-through of how to use an app to choose optimal camera locations. 

To practice analysis using the r package secr in R studio please check out the annotated R script and data that you can download HERE. We recommend that you open this using R studio. 

Part 1: Introduction to SCR analysis in R

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Part 2: Defining the SCR Mask

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Part 3: SCR analysis in R continued

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Part 4: SCR analysis & non-uniform parameters

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Congratulations for completing this on-line course!

If you have any further questions please do get in touch







All photos by Ismail Shariff