Linares, O., Carranza, J., Soliño, M., Delibes-Mateos, M., Ferreras, P., Descalzo, E., & Martínez-Jauregui, M. (2020). Citizen science to monitor the distribution of the Egyptian mongoose in southern Spain: who provide the most reliable information?. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 66(4), 1-5.
The Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon L.) is a medium-size carnivore widely distributed in Africa and in a small part of southern Europe, the Iberian Peninsula, where mongoose populations have recently expanded. The mongoose is relatively easily detectable because of its diurnal habits and because it is the only species of Herpestidae occurring in the Iberian Peninsula. Therefore, its distribution could be monitored through citizen science. In this sense, information provided by stakeholders that make frequent use of natural environments, including hunters, landowners, or wildlife rangers, would be potentially very valuable. Nevertheless, the accuracy of the information provided by these stakeholders as regards mongoose occurrence has never been tested. To do so, we compared mongoose occurrences gathered through field transects (i.e., 2-km walking surveys in which direct observations and indirect signs were recorded) carried out in 218 Andalusian municipalities during 2010–2015 with those obtained through questionnaires conducted in 2016 to hunters (n = 251), landowners (n = 116), and wildlife rangers (n = 133). We did not find any significant difference between mongoose distribution estimated by the reference method (i.e., field surveys) and by questionnaire to wildlife rangers. In contrast, mongoose occurrences reported by hunters and landowners were significantly correlated among them, but not with those collected in field transects (nor with those provided by the rangers). This suggests that a participatory network for monitoring mongoose distribution could rely on the information provided by wildlife rangers. Previous studies showed that hunters can provide useful information from less accessible areas like private estates where official data are not collected. In this sense, our results suggest that further effort is needed to incorporate hunters and landowners in a participatory network to monitor mongoose distribution, and this could include collaborative actions to promote their involvement in addition to increasing their skills in mongoose detection.