Development of a Low Cost Remote Sensing and Geospatial Technique for Primate Census and Surveys

Project Description


  • Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
  • Proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus)

IUCN Status:

Long-tailed macaque = Least concern

Proboscis monkey = Endangered


MSc Candidate: Amaziasizamoria Jumail

Supervisors:, Liew Thor Seng, Danica Stark, Kimberly Fornace, Milena Salgado-Lynn.

Institution: Institute of Tropical Biology and Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sabah

Duration: 2016-2018

Accurately estimating the number of individuals in a primate group is important for primate ecology, population density and abundance studies. These data are critical for understanding how disease impacts primate populations, the conservation of primate species, and understand the cause of variation in primate behaviour specifically in term of rates of competition. Therefore, this study aims to optimise the thermal camera technology and assess the usefulness of thermal camera used as a hand held tool as a means of estimating primate populations within Sabah by comparing two survey techniques which consist of thermal surveys used as a hand held tool and the visual survey.


  1. To develop a workflow for experimental design, image acquisition, and data processing and analytical procedure for proposed remote sensing census technique.
  2. To evaluate the efficiency, sensitivity and specificity of this census technique at different conditions and habitats.
  3. To demonstrate the capability and potential of this technique for population size estimation and sleeping site identification studies.


Thermal survey optimisation

Prior to the primate survey data collection period, trials were conducted along the Kinabatangan River to determine the optimal conditions to enhance the image quality during the surveys. The variables tested and recorded were: 1) distance from the observer (on the boat) to the riverbank, 2) boat speed, 3) time of day, and 4) weather conditions. For each transect, the number of groups and the number individuals in each group were obtained by using both handheld thermal imaging and visual (non-thermal) observations. In addition, the position of the primate groups detected on the screen monitor were marked with a handheld GPS. The transect surveyed each day was selected based on where we found the primates settling in a particular section of the study site the evening before.