Field update from John Hart and Maurice Emetshu
This year, for the first time, we used camera traps in the TL2 forests to learn about animals that, previously, we knew only by the signs they left behind — their tracks, their dung…
In late March Maurice, our senior field leader, took eight cameras and a supply of rechargeable batteries to our northern base camp, Obenge. He experimented with different ways of hiding, attaching and aiming the cameras. He is thrilled – and so are we!
At a small forest opening:
Maurice used the small mineral lick called Musubuku, hoping to find out how often different animals visited. During the day we never see animals; their tracks leave only an imprecise record of their nocturnal visits. Maurice set cameras with an infrared light beam as a detector. The infrared flash does not emit visible light, but captures the image in the dark of night without being detected by most animals.
The elephants, whose photo is above, visited the clearling for a few successive nights and then were gone.
At Losekola, one of our research sites:
Maurice fixed the cameras along our research paths, or transects, at Losekola where we wondered if they could help us determine the prevalence of less visible animals. In the forest, animals can be hard to detect, either because they are nocturnal or just because they are very discrete. The cameras recorded twelve species so far, including the following:
Our presence has kept most hunters from using the Losekola forest, but our cameras “captured” one poacher, Nova. The village had agreed to protect our studysite, so the chief of Obenge confiscated Nova’s unregistered shotgun after Maurice showed the photo below.
Nova (above) was caught “red-handed” hunting in the Losekola study area. This shows that camera traps, developed from surveillance cameras such as those in stores and banks, can still be used for that original purpose in the TL2 forests.
At our base camp:
And it goes both ways: people (like Nova above) stealing from the forest and the forest (in this case, a leopard) stealing from people.
There was a leopard hanging around near the village of Obenge, stealing chickens and goats. Maurice wondered if he could capture it on a camera trap– and he did – “red handed” or “red jawed” with a chicken in his teeth.