May 5, 2014
- as seen by -Julie Larsen Maher
Camera traps set up in the wild help biologists count animals in areas otherwise difficult to census. They’re best known for not needing a photographer continually at the controls—until I turned INTO a camera trap for a study of snow leopard spots.
Field staff in Asia wanted to set out camera traps for a snow leopard count but needed to find out if they’d be able to tell one cat from another. Each cat has unique markings amidst its thick fur, but the coat’s density makes the spots hard to see.
In my role as camera trap, I took photos of Bronx Zoo snow leopards from different angles (the forehead is one good place to see the spots) as a preliminary step to placing camera traps in the wild. The snow leopard researchers used these photos to test their identification skills on individual cats. Soon after, camera traps were set out in parts of Asia to do their work alone.