Who’s Watching Whom?

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A remote camera catches an ocelot.

I’m in the city of Cusco, Peru, on my way back to the cloud forests of southeastern Peru, and I’ve had a chance to look at the remote camera photos taken last November-December (see post, Andean Bears: Camera Trappers). I’d heard from my colleagues in the field that there were no bears in this set of photos, but there are some interesting animals out there in the forest!

The cameras are programmed to take several photos in rapid succession every time they are triggered by movement. Sometimes these sequences of photos are very engaging, such as when an ocelot stops to groom itself or when a small songbird performs a courtship display before a potential mate. Other times, these sequences of photos are also informative. For example, although usually there’s no evidence that the animals take notice of the cameras, there are some photos that strongly suggest that an animal does notice the camera.

We want to avoid changing the behavior of the animals, so fortunately I haven’t seen any photos in which an animal is frightened by the camera. They only seem curious for a moment before going about their business.

See how the photos below tell a story of an ocelot, taken by a remote camera on November 19, 2009, in the cloud forest of Peru.

Russ Van Horn is a senior researcher with the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. Read his previous post, In It for the Long Haul.

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