Camera Traps Reveal Secret Animal Worlds

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African lions at night

from Wired, by Dave Mosher

Catching images of wild animals, especially rare ones, can be exceedingly difficult for photographers. But the Smithsonian Institution recently released more than 200,000 wildlife images captured by automated cameras hidden in forests, mountains and savannas across the globe.

Called Smithsonian Wild, the project harbors five years’ worth of photographs collected in seven countries by dozens of camera traps that take photos when animals wander nearby. Some are equipped with night vision, strobe flashes and other gizmos, and some can record video.

“Each camera-trap image is a record of an animal in space and time, a record of life on Earth. To my knowledge, this is the largest database of such photos in existence,” said the Smithsonian’s Robert Costello, co-leader of the project. “If you create a research-grade repository that’s safe and secure, it’s going to be useful to researchers for a long, long time.”

The scent of one person can spook shy creatures for miles around, which is when camera traps come in handy. The devices take pictures only when an animal’s heat signature is detected by sensors inside a weatherproof housing. Hunters have popularized camera traps to better track and map game, but scientists use them to observe secretive animal behaviors, estimate at-risk wildlife populations and even rediscover species once thought to be extinct.

Read the rest here.

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