Well another week and a half has come and gone and I’m back from the forest (have been for a couple of days actually, but who’s counting?) I’ve been doing a bit of work on our camera trapping project recently, and it occurred to me that people may not know exactly what this means. So, it’s time for a science lesson!
This may or may not be obvious to most of you reading this blog, but a camera trap is essentially a battery-powered camera that can be placed in an environment- in our case, mounted on a tree in the forest- in order to opportunistically collect data on wildlife. The cameras have motion detectors so that they automatically take photos when animals walk by. Camera traps are especially useful for gathering information on species richness (the number of species) in a given area, but with the right placement and sample size (number of photos taken) they can also be used to collect data on population size/density of a given species. Photos from camera traps can even be used to identify individual animals, if each individual in a population has distinctive markings. Camera trap sampling has a lot of pros: after the initial time investment of finding good places to put them the cameras don’t require much additional labor, they collect data 24/7, and the photos are great for public outreach.
In Sabangau we currently have 20+ cameras set out in 12 locations, with data downloaded every two weeks. Adul is our local camera trap project coordinator, and going out with him to change the cameras is one of my favorite jobs around camp- he can be quite silly, and we usually have lots of fun just walking around the forest. Plus, coming back to camp and checking the memory cards is a little bit like Christmas; you never know what will show up on the photos! The best days are when we get photos of interesting behavior (macaques mating? a clouded leopard climbing down a tree? we’ve seen it!) or of animals that rarely get caught on the cameras. The major focus of the camera trapping project is felids, and to date the data have shown that our forest has 4 of the 5 major species of Bornean cats. This information is invaluable for the continued conservation of Sabangau. The cameras also occasionally catch humans as well, and Adul and I have become quite good at identifying people in the photos from their legs alone (it also keeps us on our toes…. we’re all careful to stop and think about where we are in the forest if we need an, ahem… “comfort” break!)
Anyway, enough talk- let’s see some photos! HERE is the link to OuTrop’s brand new Best Photos of 2012 video, made by yours truly. Check it out to see some of the wildlife of Sabangau, as well as to get an idea of what the forest here looks like. As for me, it’s back to office work on this rainy Tuesday afternoon 🙂