Here’s What Happens When You Put Camera Traps in Trees

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

Camera traps have been very useful for studying rare mammals on the ground, but until recently, no one had thought to put them up in trees, in the canopy of the rainforest.  In Peru, where rainforest was recently cleared to install a natural gas pipeline, a Smithsonian scientist thought it would be neat to put camera traps up on the highest branches of trees that arched over the pipeline and clearing.  She put 25 camera traps on overhanging branches that were nine stories high, and also put some on the ground for comparison. After some trial and error, over 6 months, the camera traps on branches had taken 8,000 photos of animals that were warmer or colder than the surrounding environment.  This included 20 bird species, 4 reptiles, and 22 mammals, and more animals were photographed at night. Different species of animals were caught on camera in the trees than on the ground, showing that some species are arboreal and use the branches to cross over the clearing while avoiding walking on the ground.

The photos are awesome – there’s a baby anteater on its mother’s back, dwarf porcupines, sloths, toucans, eagles, and monkeys.

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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.