Wildlife camera trapping
A wildlife camera trap is a camera left at a location, rigged so that any approaching wild animal will automatically trigger the shutter release and take one or more photos or video sequences, without the photographer being present.
The first attempts to do this were made as early as 1877. In 1906, camera trap photos were seen widely for the first time when George Shiras published photos of free-living wildlife in the National Geographic Magazine.
In the early years camera trapping was rather a specialist and limited activity, mainly because the equipment was bulky and difficult to use, involving weighty cameras and arrays of trip wires. But although the equipment was clumsy by modern standards, from the outset images obtained this way were especially attractive for the often candid and relaxed behaviour that was captured.
Why are we camera trapping?
Today camera trapping has been transformed by technology to become a major tool for conservation organisations like ZSL. Miniaturised heat and motion sensors have replaced wires and pressures pads. Invisible infra-red flash units provide night time monchrome images without the startling effect of conventional flash. Very large numbers of high quality digital images can be stored and modern batteries allow these devices to operate unsupervised night and day in remote locations for months at a time. This gives us the opportunity to learn new things about elusive wild animals and some of the problems they face.
The images emerging from these projects are often engaging and useful in their own right, but we also need strong data management systems and robust analytical methods to turn the many 100s of thousands of images generated into scientifically valid conclusions. The development of new analysis tools has not so far kept pace with the potential created by the new technology. ZSL is working to develop the statistical theory behind new methods that make full use of the information emerging from camera trap surveys. We are also developing new software tools that make it easy to manage camera trap data and produce information that is relevant to critical conservation questions.
Key Species we camera trap
We typically use arrays of camera traps spaced across large areas to assess the distribution and abundance of key species of conservation concern and conduct biodiversity surveys, or to understand the impact of humans on whole animal communities. However, we also sometime target key locations with cameras, such as dens or nest sites, to provide a history of the activity and behaviour of a target species. ZSL is carrying out camera trapping surveys like these across the globe, including projects in Europe, Africa, the Americas, South and South-East Asia, targeting iconic species such as tigers and okapi, as well as a huge range of lesser known wildlife.
Advanced Camera Trapping Technology
At ZSL the Conservation Technology Unit (CTU) has used funding from the Google Impact Award to build the world’s first satellite enabled camera trap for anti-poaching and remote monitoring. Read more on the Instant Detect page.
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