Updated: Dec 28, 2020
An impala captured by one of our camera traps in the Sebungwe region in Zimbabwe
Camera traps have come a long way from their beginnings in wildlife photography more than 100 years ago and are now a ubiquitous tool in ecology and conservation. The first “camera traps” (remotely triggered cameras to capture wildlife imagery without a human presence) were used in the late 1890’s by photographic pioneer George Shiras who also devised several methods of capturing wildlife on film. The camera traps have since been modified and perfected over the years, and so did the methods used to analyze data from camera traps.
George Shiras and John Hammerin a canoe equipped for jacklighting, Whitefish Lake, Michigan(1893) (© National Geographic Creative Archives)
We are currently using camera traps in our project areas to monitor wildlife populations and other activities within wildlife areas. Camera traps provide data on species location, population sizes and how species are interacting. They also help us to understand how humans and livestock interact with each other and other forms of wildlife.
Livestock captured by one of our camera traps in a wildlife area in the Sebungwe region, Zimbabwe.
Estimating and monitoring the abundance and distribution of animal populations is critical for ecological research, as well as wildlife management and conservation. Camera traps can be used to get insights into the whole community of species, including how they are structured and how they interact in space and time. They can also be used to assess and monitor changes in species abundance and composition in space or time.
The development of new software tools and statistical models are also now making it much easier and faster to obtain high quality information from the thousands of images that camera traps can quickly generate. Camera traps can also capture other human activities such as poaching and veldfires.
A veld fire captured by one of our camera traps in the Sebungwe region in Zimbabwe.