August 16, 2011

Cameras Unveil Hidden Lives Of Mammals In The Wild

A study using hidden motion-sensor cameras has revealed mammals' lives around some of the world's most remote forests.

The researchers sought to collect data on mammals living in seven different forests locations.

Dr Jorge Ahumada of the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network (TEAM) at Conservational International and colleagues captured over 50,000 images of 105 species that ranged from three-ton elephants to a 26-gram Linnaeu's Mouse Opposum.

Protected regions in Uganda, Tanzania, Surinam, Laos, Costa Rica, Brazil and Indonesia were studied by using 420 cameras with 60 at each site.  The cameras were left for a month in each location to record passing forest-dwellers.

The team discovered after cataloging the animals caught on camera that smaller protected areas lead to less species diversity among mammals, with some more at risk than others.

"Protected areas matter," said Ahumada.

"The bigger the forest (mammals) live in, the higher the number and diversity of species, body sizes and diet types. "Some mammals seem more vulnerable to habitat loss than others: insect-eating mammals -- like anteaters, armadillos and some primates, are the first to disappear -- while other groups, like herbivores, seem to be less sensitive."

"The results of the study are important in that they confirm what we suspected: habitat destruction is slowly but surely killing our planet's mammal diversity."

The cameras were hidden with camouflage and do not have a visible flash.  They are also heat-sensitive so when something warm is nearby it snaps a picture. 

The cameras not only captured mammals but also large birds, lizards and human poachers with guns in hand.

The Central Suriname Nature Reserve had the highest number of species diversity with 28 and the Nam Kading National Protected Area in Laos presented the lowest number with 13.

Ahumada said they hope the study will help to provide a framework that others can follow to study and ultimately protect endangered mammals.

"Without a systematic, global approach to monitoring these animals and making sure the data gets to people making decisions, we are only recording their extinctions, not actually saving them," he said in a statement.

The team's findings were published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.


Image Caption: Manaus, Brazil. Myrmecophaga tridactyla (Giant anteater), a vulnerable species. This image is one of nearly 52,000 photos of 105 mammal species, taken as part of the first global camera trap mammal study done by The Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network (TEAM) [ View the photo album]


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