Camera Traps Ever Heard of Them?

Most people would say no. Camera traps are a tool used by wildlife biologists to document the occurrence of animals at a specific location. Many wild animals are incredibly elusive, rare, or both, such so that it is difficult for wildlife biologists to document their populations. Information on the distribution of animals is critical for conserving populations of rare animals for a number of reasons. You can’t conserve something if you don’t know where it lives, or maybe your spending time, effort, and critically short financial resources on an animal that is actually more secure than you think. The more separate populations of an animal that exist, the less rare it is, the more secure its overall survival is, and the less concerned for its protection you need to be. As a conservation biologist working in Colorado some of the elusive animals that biologists need more information on include the lynx, wolverine, swift fox, kit fox, and common hog-nosed skunk, to name a few. All these animals can be surveyed using camera traps.

The elusive African wild dog and another difficult to study African animal, the leopard.

 Camera traps are exactly what the name implies; automated cameras that are set out in the wild and will capture elusive animals on film as they pass by what is called, the camera trap station.  When a motion or infrared sensor detects the presence of an animal, the camera snaps a photo. Sometimes you capture the whole animal, but from behind, sometimes just a tail, or sometimes a full frontal or side shot of the animal (these are the money shots that wildlife biologists drool over). From such photos you can sometimes even begin to identify separate animals by the unique markings and color patterns on their bodies. Through rigorously designed surveys using randomized placement of large numbers of camera trap stations scientists can identify the distribution and population sizes on what are otherwise difficult, if not impossible, to survey animals.

Africa is no different than Colorado or any other wild place on earth where large numbers of animals still survive in undisturbed areas. In Africa, there are many elusive and rare animals that biologists pull their hair out over trying to understand their population trends, distributions, and sizes. One such animal is theAders’ duiker, a critically endangered antelope species that was thought to live in only two spots on Earth. Through the use of camera traps biologists have been able to document new populations of this antelope in places where previously it had never been suspected to occur. Read about this fascinating research on Aders’ duiker taking place in Kenya at:

Africa is a huge continent with more abundant populations of animals than anywhere else on earth. Being such a large continent with diverse and large numbers of animals, makes it difficult for biologists to study and conserve those animals. Camera traps are another tool that biologists can use to make this important, but difficult work, a bit easier to perform.

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