One difficulty faced by conservationists is getting hold of reliable statistics on the animals they are looking after. For good reasion, many species of predators are rather shy.
In a paper just published in Current Biology a small group of researchers describe a clever low-cost solution.
Their idea is to take another well-known difficulty of doing field work in tropical forests – the endless swarm of bloodsucking leeches – and turn it into a scientific tool.
Realising that leeches can go for months without food, they have taken to capturing leeches and examining the stomachs for DNA, and in the process identified a number of previously believed to be extinct species.
More about this work can be found in the current edition of the Economist: http://www.economist.com/node/21554172