Tepui Watch

Our current project at Biokryptos is Tepui Watch - a project with the ambitious objective of surveying and cataloging the sum total biodiversity of Auyan Tepui. The methodology we use is a combination of long term camera trap surveillance, aerial surveillance, satellite image analysis and GIS analysis with transect surveys of Auyan Tepui to develop baseline biodiversity measurements of the summit and talus slope ecosystems and close research gaps. Tepui Watch  utilizes a small network of trail cameras in three different tepui ecosystems to photograph both endemic summit fauna and obtain evidence of lowland vertebrates on the tepui summits, which have been observed and documented by Venezuelan scientists but not formally published in academia. The project combines field research with technology and methodology transfers to indigenous Pemon and Venezuelan guides and experts who are trained in the use of trail cameras to monitor the tepui environment. Relevant discoveries are submitted for publication in peer reviewed academic journals. The model of minimally invasive field surveillance we have developed for Tepui Watch can be translated and refined for future utilization across the entire Pantepui region. We intend to use this model in the future to focus on the under-surveyed and unexplored tepuis of the Pantepui ecoregion, to close research and exploration gaps after gap analysis is conducted. 

Tepui Watch Database 

Biokryptos is committed to improving global knowledge of Venezuela’s tepui ecosystems, and promoting scientific research and education about the Pantepui region. To further these goals, Biokryptos has created a database of camera trap and expedition photographs from our Tepui Watch project. Since 2014, Tepui Watch has produced thousands of photographs of the animals which inhabit the talus and summit of Auyan Tepui. In our collection of camera trap and expedition photographs we have both unclassified and classified animals. Many of our photographs contain the first records of lowland species on a tepui summit; they are the first records of new species distributions.

The Tepui Watch database is open to the public to review and enjoy, and open to qualified researchers and professionals to submit images to. The goal of the Tepui Watch database is to warehouse detailed scientific biodiversity surveys along with detailed satellite cartography and environmental data from every tepui in the Pantepui region in a globally accessible archive.  

Our Methods: Camera traps 

The cornerstone of Tepui Watch lies in long term, low impact surveillance of the fauna of Auyan Tepui. Biokryptos utilizes camera traps (synonymous with trail cameras) placed in the field at key locations to catalog the biodiversity of Auyan, deployed to obtain both a baseline measurement of faunal diversity and to look for target species identified in research gap analysis. The camera trapping methodology roughly follows the norms and guidelines of camera trapping studies outlined by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Management (TEAM) system, though currently scaled down due to the availability of funding. Thus far, Tepui Watch uses the two Moultrie D55 IR Gamespy cameras used in the initial study and additional cameras manufactured by Moultrie; two D 444 8 MP Low Glow camera traps, which are compatible with field placed solar panels, one Moultrie 5A Low Glow Game Camera, and as of August 2014 two Reconyx PC800 cameras. As this is the first time these particular brands are subjected to the rigors of functioning for long periods of time on the rain soaked tepui summits, different models with different power requirements and shutter speeds were selected so a post field study analysis can be conducted on the performance of the cameras. This study will utilize more trail cameras in the future as funding allows.

Long term placement of these traps on Auyan will produce the kind of field observations that have not been replicated since the initial explorations of Auyan by the 1937-38 Phelps expedition, during which 29 species of mammal were observed on the summit, many of which have which have not been subsequently verified on the summit of Auyan. Our camera trapping study is currently the only study of its kind to take place on a tepui summit, with a scope and method that go beyond previous field surveys to investigate the unknown areas of Auyan Tepui.

The traps are placed in three areas on Auyan: 1) forested talus slopes, 2) accessible human used trails and 3) remote locations on the tepui summit which reflect ecosystem diversity.