Wild animal selfies drive millions of digital clicks and shares, but these critter photos are not just entertainment for the online masses. They are scientific data collected by camera traps: cameras equipped with a sensor—motion, infrared or light beam—that triggers the shutter when it detects an animal moving by.
These devices let researchers observe wild animals in their natural habitats while largely staying out of their hair, feathers and scales.
In Candid Creatures: How Camera Traps Reveal the Mysteries of Nature, zoologist Roland Kays has collected 613 of the best images from 153 research groups around the world. It's a delightful photo album of wildlife ranging from aardvarks to zebras, with plenty of big cats, bears, primates, elephants and other charismatic critters in between, as well as a comprehensive overview of how camera trap technology is transforming our understanding of their lives.
Camera trapping has been around in some form for more than a century. To create his 1,878 images of a horse in full gallop, photographer Eadweard Muybridge connected strings to the shutters of a dozen cameras, which the horse triggered in sequence by breaking the strings as it ran by. In the late 1880s, Pennsylvania photographer (and one-term Congress member) George Shiras created a camera-and-flash system triggered when a wild animal touched a trip wire. His images won a gold medal at the universal exposition in Paris in 1900.
Fast-forward to 2006, the year photographer George Steinmetz touched off the field's modern era when he created the first digital camera trap while on assignment for National Geographic. In the decade since, cameras have become more durable, memory cards more capacious and batteries more powerful—a trifecta that has ushered in the golden age of the camera trap.
"Modern studies use dozens of camera traps over hundreds of locations to collect many thousands or millions of photographs," Kays wrote. "The camera trap photograph offers a way to measure biodiversity, a testament to life on earth similar to the traditional animal skins and skeletal specimens stored in the collections of our great natural history museums."
Scientists are learning things about even the most avidly observed species from camera trapping, Kays wrote, while generating the perfect means to engage the public on preserving biodiversity, "Data and images are the two most important results of any camera trap study, working together to help in the fight to conserve animals and their habitats.
Sunda Clouded Leopard
A Sunda clouded leopard pauses for his portrait in Borneo's Tawau Hills National Park. "Clouded leopards are forest animals and camera traps most often detect them in evergreen forests," wrote Kays. The species is "tolerant of some level of hunting, as camera traps showed that they continued to survive in an Indian preserve after the tigers, as well as much of the prey, had been overhunted by illegal poaching."
Photo credit: Sebastian Kennerknecht / Candid Creatures
A pair of pandas stop for a drink in a thicket of bamboo, the plant that makes up 99 percent of this species' diet. "With the panda's skid toward extinction apparently halted, conservationists are now looking for sustainable solutions," wrote Kays. "Camera traps are important tools for monitoring their populations within panda reserves … and hopefully will continue to capture cute photos of these animals long into the future."
Photo credit: Sheng Li / Candid Creatures
African Forest Elephant
An older adult male elephant comes up from a swim in the Echira River in Gabon's Loango National Park. "Camera traps have been more important for studying forest elephants than bush elephants because they are harder to find and watch in person," Kays noted. "Each elephant has a unique appearance, based on size, ear shape and scarring patterns. By placing camera traps in a regular grid across the forests of Loango National Park, Gabon, Josephine Head and colleagues were able to photograph and identify 139 unique individuals, estimating a density of 0.54 animals" per square mile.
Photo credit: Michael Nichols / Candid Creatures
The Malayan tapir has the longest snout of the five tapir species and is "Southeast Asia's least known species of megafauna," wrote Kays. To learn more about this species, which is endangered by loss of its preferred evergreen forest habitat, 37 biologists combined images and data representing "52,904 camera trap days of effort across 1,128 locations in 19 nature preserves."
Photo credit: Ruben Clements / Rimba / Candid Creatures
Giant Sable Antelope
A herd of female sable antelope congregates around a salt lick in Cangandala National Park in Angola, which makes the site a good location for a camera trap. "Unfortunately, poachers have also discovered these animal hot spots and are often caught on camera as they patrol by," Kays wrote. "They have seen and destroyed enough camera traps at this site that scientists now have to climb trees and mount them out of sight."
Photo credit: Pedro Vaz Pinto / Candid Creatures
A large adult black cod approaches a baited underwater video station in the rocky reefs of eastern Australia—a "big beautiful fish that also has the misfortune of being delicious," Kays wrote. Overfishing devastated populations of this Australia–New Zealand fish from the 1950s through the 1970s. Its numbers have not bounced back despite more than 30 years of protection. "Out in the deeper waters around rocky reefs some large adults are now seen by snorkelers and photographed by baited remote underwater video stations," Kays continued. "However, young fish are almost never seen, raising concerns over the next generation of black cod."
Photo credit: David Harasti / Candid Creatures
A Tasmanian devil runs away from a bird carcass that served as its recent meal. Found only on the Australian island of Tasmania, the devil population has plunged 90 percent since 1996 owing to a unique, transmissible facial cancer. But camera trapping at one location has buoyed hope for the species, Kays wrote. "[D]evils at Freycinet National Park suffered only a small initial population decline when the cancer first arrived," he wrote, "but the population has bounced back. The tumors can be identified in good camera trap photos, allowing officials to see that it was never common in the park, and that it has declined since 2006."
Photo credit: Heath Holden / Candid Creatures
A giant pangolin rears up, showing its fierce claws. Its heavy tail acts as a counterbalance, allowing it to run with very little weight on its front feet, keeping its claws sharp for digging into termite or ant mounds.
Rampant poaching of pangolins for their scales, which command large sums on China's black market, has threatened the species' survival. Along with campaigns to reduce public demand for pangolin parts and intensified policing of the illegal wildlife trade, Kays wrote, conservationists "on the ground in African and Asian forests [are] patrolling for poachers and using camera traps to try to determine where the pangolin populations persist."
Photo credit: Laila Bahaa-el-din/ Panthera / Candid Creatures
A baby orangutan crosses a gap in the forest to catch up with its mother. Conversion of forests to palm oil plantations has been a major factor in Bornean orangutan population declines. "The species is threatened by habitat destruction and by selective logging," Keys wrote. "Camera trap surveys can map where these monkeys still roam, helping to target conservation efforts."
Photo credit: Oliver Wearn / SAFE Project / Candid Creatures
The world's largest primate, weighing up to 600 pounds, the western gorilla is critically endangered thanks to poaching, Ebola epidemics and loss of its lowland rainforest habitat. This silverback male gorilla encountered a camera trap in Gabon. "Tracking the declines and recoveries of gorilla numbers over these remote areas is challenging and many traditional methods have since been found to be unreliable or too difficult to scale up," wrote Kays. "A few recent studies with camera traps suggest that they could be a useful tool to help count and protect gorillas," in part because "gorillas have unique faces and can often be identified from photos."
Photo credit: Laila Bahaa-el-din / Panthera/ Candid Creatures
All captions are adapted from Candid Creatures.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Michael Svoboda
The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.
Watchdog Accuses Trump's NOAA of 'Choosing Extinction' for Right Whales by Hiding Scientific Evidence
By Julia Conley
As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.
- Lemurs and Northern Right Whales Near Brink of Extinction ... ›
- Trump Administration Approves Harmful Seismic Blasting in Atlantic ... ›
By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
- Should I Exercise During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Experts ... ›
- If Meditation Is Not Your Thing, Try a Walk in the Woods - EcoWatch ›
In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
- Federal Judge Orders Trump Admin to Give Native Americans Their ... ›
- Police Were Ready to Shoot Indigenous Pipeline Protesters in ... ›
- Climate Justice, Indigenous Rights Advocates Rally for Wet'suwet'en ... ›
By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
- Airborne Coronavirus Transmission Must Be Taken Seriously, 239 ... ›
- Trump Halts WHO Funding Amidst Criticism of His Own Coronavirus ... ›
- Here's Why COVID-19 Can Spread So Easily at Gyms and Fitness ... ›
- Is the New Coronavirus Airborne? A Study From China Finds Evidence ›
By Angela Nicoletti
The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.
- Global Frog Pandemic May Become Even Deadlier as Strains ... ›
- New Species of Diamond Frog Discovered in Remote Pocket of ... ›
- Frogs Are on the Verge of Mass Extinction, Scientists Say - EcoWatch ›