When rangers in Western Australia lost a motion-sensor camera to capture crocodiles, they thought the device fell into the nearby gorge. But a few weeks ago the camera turned up roughly 70 miles away and its footage explains why.
Three 30-second clips show how a seal eagle scooped up the camera and flew with it before depositing it on the ground and pecking it. Rangers were shocked to uncover the rare footage.
"It was pretty amazing because it's one of the first camera traps to ever get picked up," Gooniyandi ranger Roneil Skeen told the Australian Broadcast Corporation. "They've had camera traps moved [by animals] before, but not taken off, like a flying camera you know?”
The Gooniyandi Rangers credit the bird’s youthful curiosity as the reason behind its actions.
"We knew it was a juvenile eagle because the adult sea eagles, once they get their food or their prey, they usually take it right up into the sky and drop it," Skeen said. "But this one was still learning because he just took it near the cliff-side and he never dropped [it], he just put it down and started picking at it. An adult one would have flown it right up the top and yeah for sure it would have smashed that camera."
Rangers set up the high-definition camera in May by the Margaret River in Western Australia to record fresh water crocodiles in the area. The device, which is about 4 to 6 inches long, was found by a ranger along the Mary River -- about 70 miles way, the Associated Press reports.
Motion-sensor cameras have been able to capture rare animals in the past. In November, environmentalists in Vietnam were able to capture photos of an elusive saola, also known as the “Asian unicorn.”
"These are the most important wild animal photographs taken in Asia, and perhaps the world, in at least the past decade," William Robichaud, coordinator of the Saola Working Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission, said at the time.
A similar camera trap shot photos of the Borneo bay cat, a feline so rare that fewer than 2,500 are known to exist.
"The cameras record multiple sightings, sometimes of species which we might be very lucky to see even after spending years in an area,” Imperial College London Ph.D. researcher Oliver Wearn said. “For example, I've seen the clouded leopard just twice in three years of fieldwork, whilst my cameras recorded 14 video sequences of this enigmatic cat in just eight months."