Camera Traps Capture the Secret Lives of Animals

Photo from the SiWild collection. Smithsonian

We’re big fans of technology that ups our chances of seeing a rare creature and lessens the impacts of doing so. That’s why we love camera traps. Camera traps can capture rare animal images in a way that is much more intimate and true to their behavior in the wild.

“Each camera-trap image is a record of an animal in space and time, a record of life on Earth,”explains Robert Costello in Wired, a  co-leader on a unique Smithsonian project. Smithsonian Wild,  has five years’ of camera trap photos of animals all around the globe!

Camera traps also allow researchers to capture and count otherwise elusive creatures. Many animals can smell a wildlife photographer or a researcher from miles away, and can easily choose to evacuate the premises if they catch their scent.

“Pictures of wild animals are usually very majestic, showing them regally, off in the distance. But camera traps bring out the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said. “You can see them scratching their privates, being bit by vampire bats and even mating. It’s not what you’d expect, and it makes their existence more real to me,” Costello adds.

Since fishing cat’s are experts at staying hidden in plain sight – even in zoos! – camera traps are a necessary part of documenting and understanding these mysterious felines. (See how camera traps helped researcher Namfon Cutter capture her first photo of a fishing cat and baby in the wild!) If you’d like to help us buy a camera trap that will help us capture the fishing cat in the wild and also help Thai-based fishing cat research, visit our Kickstarter page.

You can check out more amazing camera-trap imagery of the sort we hope to capture in this month’s issue of Audubon, or peruse the Smithsonian Wild gallery of more than 200,000 camera-trap wildlife photographs from around the world.


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