Amazonian ‘camera traps’ provided images for massive archive
The Amazon, defeated: devouring the rainforest
Camera trap data has been ‘deficient and scattered’, the researchers write – a missed opportunity to study and inventory the fauna in the Amazon non-invasively. Now they’re making it available for free (but asking academics to let them know how they use it). This is not only about getting the information in one place, but also allowing researchers to study some of the biggest challenges facing the region. Many, like climate change, deforestation and fires, are human-caused.
How deforestation is pushing the Amazon to a tipping point
The region is the most biodiverse in the world, and many of its thousands and thousands of species have not been documented or studied.
The camera traps in the dataset took pictures of 317 animal species in Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. More than 50,000 photos – almost half of the dataset – were provided by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The data includes information on things like the species caught, the bait used, where an image was taken, and what the landscape looks like there.
Among the most photographed were the lowland pacas, rodents with deer-like lines of spots; the black razor-beaked hoccos; and the golden tegus, a kind of lizard that can measure up to 3 feet long and weigh up to nine pounds.
How cameras in nature changed what we know about animals
Camera traps are gaining popularity as a means of obtaining information about animals without disturbing or killing them. Triggered by infrared sensors, static cameras make it possible to monitor animal populations over the long term and to identify their numbers. They also provide insight into how animals feed and mate – activities that human presence could interrupt.
The project was a “massive effort,” write the researchers. And that’s just the beginning: By releasing the data, the researchers say they hope they can create more connections between camera trap researchers and increase coordination for future investigations.