A note to readers: There are a few spoiler alerts for the movie 'The Jungle Book'. Please read it at your own discretion. This is not a movie review, just me sharing my experience watching the movie. Thank you everyone.
I had Friday off from work and decided to go watch the newly released movie, ‘The Jungle Book’. I had seen the trailer before and it blew my mind! I love movies featuring animals, especially talking ones. Since I was a young girl, I always thought how great it would be if animals could talk to us. I used to dedicate hours imagining how it would feel to have a talking dog. My thoughts were if animals can talk then they can tell us how they feel. This way, we can better understand their needs and simply care for them better or just leave them alone. I still don’t remember why I had these thoughts at such a young age to begin with.
Anyway, I found myself in the cinema at 10.30am on a ‘Bring Your Baby’ day. Naturally I was surrounded by many cute babies and their mums who looked like they needed this break.
The animation of the movie was great. So great that it seemed natural that the animals were engaged in perfect conversations. There were some scary moments for the little ones and me. I jumped out of my seat a number of times while trying my best to keep my screams dignified and under my breath. The scary moments were not gory or horrifying, more like moments when something unexpected or bad happened to your favourite character. Since the lights were on throughout the movie, I could see a couple of babies turning around to look at the screen (attracted by the loud growls of the big cats) and wailing their eyes out. Poor fellas! This started worrying me. I hope this does not impact how they feel about animals when growing up. We need all the friends we can get to help support our wildlife. I can only hope they are way too young to remember these scary moments which made them cry.
As I started getting into the movie, I could feel deep emotions taking over. The scenes of animals banded together, looking incredibly beautiful, each with a purpose in this world, each special in its own way and roaming in great numbers really stirred some very sad feelings. All of a sudden, I started panicking. A hundred questions ran a race in my mind. What happens if all this is gone, wiped out, what if our efforts don’t work and we have to live in a world with no animals? I could see scenes from ‘Racing Extinction‘ flashing in my mind. This overwhelmed me so much that I started crying. I am not sure if anyone saw me crying during the movie, if they did, it must have left them very confused. The best part was…I had no tissues on me and I was wiping my tears all over my t-shirt. Yes, it got really yucky. Then it got worse. The two villains in the movie were the Orangutan and the Tiger. This made my head spin. The two species (along with many others) which are in peril portrayed as baddies. GREAT! At this point, I was compelled to walk up to each baby and somehow tell them how beautiful and amazing both these creatures were and this was just a movie.
Perhaps, I should have told this to myself too. I know it is just a movie but one may never know the impression it leaves on these young minds…let alone this grown up animal lover who cried like a baby during the movie! I didn’t mean to take it so seriously. Honestly, I could not believe how it managed to creep into my heart and overwhelm me with such emotions as it did.
On the whole, I loved most part of this movie and it looks like I may be watching it again.
In the last years, motion detecting cameras have gained quite a status in the wildlife conservation world. Examples of uncovering species previously thought to be extinct, providing exclusive insights into never before seen animal behaviour and supporting targeted pest management actions are numerous and varied. They are also great ways to investigate the effectiveness of wildlife overpasses, introduced animal species management outcomes, habitat improvement initiatives and habitat corridors. Apart from wildlife conservation, the cameras are also used for security surveillance and paranormal investigations.
Due to the camera’s size and various features, conservationists can now set-up and leave them running for a number of months. This allows continuous monitoring of animal populations in remote locations increasing the chance of detecting rare and elusive species.
Using motion detecting cameras to survey or monitor wildlife populations is one of the many techniques in the field of conservation. But it is definitely one of the more accessible survey techniques which may enable more people to be involved in conservation initiatives. The cameras have also become more affordable with numerous models to choose from to suit every one’s budget. Hence, it is quite possible that we may see an increase of camera use in citizen science initiatives.
During my Master course, I was taught the basics of how to use a motion detecting camera to carry out wildlife surveys (aka camera trapping). I can tell you, the results were not that great. We worked in a team of four or six and despite our best effort, we only managed to get an extremely blur shot of a Wombat’s bum. At least I think it was. At that time, this frustrated me very much. I kept asking myself if I could have done something better. This sparked my interest about using these cameras for wildlife surveys. I was constantly on the lookout for news or reports about the use of motion detecting cameras in the conservation field to better understand the different uses it may have.
I was over the moon when I landed my first project to work with these cameras. I was given the task to develop a citizen science project named ‘Who’s living on my land?’ (WLOML) from an earlier pilot program which ran for six months. In the pilot phase, landholders in New South Wales (in Australia) who owned private land with remnant bushland or shared borders with National Parks were mailed a camera and a two page instruction sheet on how to set a camera up to carry out a wildlife survey.
Learn More About WLOML Project
In Australia, the National Parks and Wildlife Services (a government agency) survey protected areas such as national parks and nature reserves for the presence/absence of native and pest animal species. However, the many privately owned land or properties (with varying portions of extant bushland) that existed in rural or semi-rural areas were usually not surveyed. Thus, there was an information gap on the use of private land by native and pest species. This information was particularly vital for designing habitat corridors or stepping stones to connect the ever increasing habitat fragmentation issues due to developments and land clearings.
The WLOML project was to address this information gap. With phase two, I designed a workshop that provided camera training to the landholders and further enhanced their confidence in carrying out their own wildlife surveys. Due to the high volume of privately owned land in New South Wales, surveying all of them would require a significant amount of manpower, costs and time. By training the landholders to carry out their own surveys increases the outreach capacity and allow more properties to be surveyed. You can imagine how great this is given the diminishing conservation funding and grants out there!
The external design of each camera is quite similar. They each have the infrared flash zone, a motion detecting sensor also known as ‘Passive Infrared Sensor’ (PIR) lens, and red LED indicator lights. The indicator lights serve a variety of purpose. They flash when you activate the camera, flash when the battery is depleting or flash when it detects movement during a walk test. The term ‘walk test’ is used to describe the process of setting up the camera and walking around in front of it to test if it is effectively detecting your movements. This is very helpful in ensuring a successful camera set-up.
I have included a list of common terms and set-up features:
Trigger: when the camera detects a motion and captures an image.
Camera or Video mode: cameras can be set to take images or record short videos each time it triggers. There are settings to select the resolution, video format and length of video.
Images per trigger: the number of images that the camera will capture each time it triggers. Three images per trigger is often a common setting for wildlife surveys in Australia.
Trigger interval: time between each trigger. This determines how often the camera captures an image when an animal continues to linger in front of the camera. If no interval had been set, the constant triggering can quickly fill up the SD card which can pose problems in long-term surveys.
When you first decide to look into using or buying your own camera, it can be pretty daunting. It is quite likely that one will be met with many words and terms that can be confusing at times. Well, it was for me when I started. For example, wildlife cameras are also known as motion cameras, remote sensor cameras, infra-red cameras, wildlife cameras, trail cameras, game cameras or camera traps. Perhaps they are even more terms out there. Then you have the different types of LED flashes: semi-covert, infra-red, low-glow infrared, no-glow infrared, covert, black flash and white flash. Covert or black flash cameras are believed to create lesser disturbance to wildlife as it is harder to detect the LED flash illumination when triggered at night. During the day, almost all the camera models utilise sunlight for illuminating the day shots. Day shots are mostly in colour and night shots are black and white, unless you are using a white flash camera. White flash cameras function the same way as your everyday cameras.
Other features which differ between camera models are trigger speed, image resolution, and other additional functions (e.g. SD card capacity, video mode). If you are thinking about getting your own camera, spend some time to do your research. Read up and develop a basic understanding about the different features, brands and find a reliable vendor.
Here are some useful websites with more information/resources about motion detecting cameras:
I get this question a lot during the WLOML workshops. There are so many brands out there. Within each brand, there are numerous models and different price range.
The WLOML project uses two different camera models. Keepguard KG-680V and Reconyx HC-500. I have also used Bushnell and UOVision cameras.
To be honest, it is hard for me to answer this question without any biases. I am a big fan of Reconyx cameras. They do tend to be dearer than other models. I love their sturdy built and incredible night time images. This is useful given many of our Australian critters are nocturnal. In saying that, Keepguard cameras capture great day time images. Due to my extensive involvement with these two models, naturally they are promoted to people who want to get their own cameras (without dissing the other models of course).
One of the best features of using a motion detecting camera to observe wildlife or investigate their presence is their non-intrusive nature. They are also relatively not as labour intensive as compared to other wildlife survey methods such as small mammal trapping using Elliot traps.
Despite their non-intrusive nature, it is still important to use them responsibly. For example, not to disturb nesting mammals or birds unless you have set the camera up before they had their young. Can you imagine someone climbing up the tree with this camera and fumbling about to install it near a nest full of newly hatched chicks? You may look like a massive predator out to get them. This can distress the animals and perhaps alter their behaviours in how they care for their young.
Some wildlife surveys, including ‘Who’s living on my land?’, use non-toxic lures (secured to the ground) or attractants to attract animals to the camera station. It is important that the leftovers or unused lures are properly discarded and not thrown away on site. I am sure you will agree that the animals can do without unnecessary litter.
If you have neighbours or live near accessible routes, be mindful about the potential privacy and security issues. Paying extra attention to where you set the camera up can save you a lot of headache in the future.
These cameras are easy targets for theft too. Hence setting it up in areas where it can be easily spotted might increase the chances of it going missing. This is particularly annoying if you have been monitoring something for a very long time. Imagine losing all that data and your camera of course!
Examples of Cameras Uncovering Nature’s Gems
Below is a list of stories I have gathered with examples of motion detecting cameras in conservation and the remarkable outcomes. Hope you enjoy exploring the stories!