A team of scientists using hidden motion sensor cameras have shot thousands of candid moment photographs depicting a wide variety of animal species in protected areas across the Americas, Africa and Asia.
The study was led by Jorge Ahumada, an ecologist with the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network at Conservation International. The scientists hid about 420 cameras in seven different wildlife preserves in Suriname, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Tanzania, Brazil, Uganda and Laos -- with 60 camera traps in each site at a density of one camera per every two square kilometers for a period of one month.
The team documented nearly 52,000 photos of at least 105 species, revealing an amazing variety of animals, including African elephants, gorillas, cougars, giant anteaters, jaguars and rare tapir. The photographs were collected from 2008 to 2010 and categorized animals based on criteria such as species, body size and diet.
The results of the study were published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
"What a great study," said Stanford University biologist Terry Root, who wasn't involved in the project. "Mammals are very hard to census because they are afraid of humans, and they have better ways of hiding than we have of finding them."
The scientists have analyzed the photographic data and come to the conclusion that habitat loss and smaller reserves directly affect the diversity and survival of mammal population. "The results of the study are important in that they confirm what we suspected: habitat destruction is slowly but surely killing our planet's mammal diversity," said Ahumada in a statement.
Some mammals -- particularly insect-eating mammals such as anteaters, armadillos and primates -- are more vulnerable to habitat loss than others. Mammal groups such as herbivores seem to be less sensitive, Ahumada added.
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Found in Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania. Syncerus caffer (African Buffalo). Conservation International Sur
Found in Manaus, Brazil.Tapirus terrestris (South America Tapir), a vulnerable species. Conservation International Sur
Found in Manaus, Brazil.Cuniculus paca (Lowland paca). Conservation International Sur
Found in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania. Genetta servalina lowei (Lowe's Servaline Genet) - a small African carnivore. Conservation International Sur
Found in Bukit Barisan Selatan, Indonesia. Macaca nemestrina (Southern pig-tailed macaque), a vulnerable species. Conservation International Sur
Found in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda. Pan troglodytes (Common chimpanzee), an endangered species. Conservation International Sur
Found in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania. Loxodonta africana (African elephant), a vulnerable species. This was the largest animal photographed in the study, weighing 3,940 kg. Conservation International Sur