International Society For Endangered Cats

A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World

Camera Traps and Cat Conservation

There’s a great article in The Guardian this week about camera traps, and their increasingly important role in wildlife conservation.

Researchers the world over have embraced camera trap technology. It provides a unique view of watching wildlife in their natural habitat, and the technology has become invaluable for learning what animals live in a given area. By placing a camera on a high mountain trail, or along a game trail in a dense rainforest, scientists are learning a whole new set of data.

In recent years, the use of camera traps has led to major discoveries, including documenting an Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) in China for the first time in 62 years; proving that the world’s rarest rhino, the Javan (Rhinoceros sondaicus), is breeding, by photographing a female with her calf; rediscovering the hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) in the Malaysian state of Sabah; recording the first wolverine (Gulo gulo) in California since 1922; taking the first video of the rare Bornean bay cat (Pardofelis badia); documenting the elusive short-eared dog (Atelocynus microtis) preying on an amphibian in the Amazon; proving the extremely rare Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) still inhabits Cambodia; and snapping the first-ever photographs of a number of species in the wild, including the Saharan cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki) and the giant muntjac deer (Muntiacus vuquangensis) in Southeast Asia.

Elusive creatures that they are, the wild cats have benefited tremendously from camera trap technology. One of the projects ISEC Canada sent funding to last year, the African Golden Cat study in Gabon, produced extraordinary results with the first-ever video of one of the least known wild cats in the world.

Camera traps recently set up in Gabon took the first publicly released video of the African golden cat, the least-known feline on the continent. Unlike the other cats of Africa, the golden cat only inhabits rainforest, making it extremely difficult to spot, let alone study. University of KwaZulu-Natal graduate student Laila Bahaa-el-din captured footage of an African golden cat sitting directly in front of the camera and chasing a butterfly. On watching the videos for the first time, Bahaa-el-din says, “I felt, at last, like I was getting to know this elusive cat… The African golden cat has dominated my thoughts and energy for over a year-and-a-half now.”

Bahaa-el-din’s research is focused on understanding how the wild cat fares in pristine areas versus sustainably managed logging concessions and poorly managed logging tracts. Camera trap video footage taken in a logging concession in central Gabon that employs sound logging practices and aggressively pursues illegal hunters, indicates, says Bahaa-al-din, that “logging alone should not mean the depletion of wildlife.” The evidence from these camera traps will eventually be used to develop a conservation plan for the African golden cat, now getting its first global publicity thanks to the remote cameras.

Conservation of wild cats is accomplished using a variety of methods, often depending on the species being studied. The increasing popularity of camera traps however, has resulted in an enormous leap of knowledge on their location and status in the wild. We congratulate Laila on her tremendous success, and look forward to purchasing more camera traps for her when she returns to Gabon next year!

See also

How Wildlife Camera Traps Are Revolutionizing Conservation in The Guardian

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