What are camera traps?

While a camera trap might sound menacing, it actually does no harm at all to wildlife. The name is derived from the manner in which it 'captures' wildlife - on film!
Camera traps are not the intricate and elaborate devices you might imagine; these innovative conservation tools are in fact nothing more than everyday cameras, armed with infrared sensors that take a picture whenever they sense movement in the forest.

The challenge of trapping animals on film

While the device itself is not complicated, getting the film developed is. Because the cameras are placed in such remote locations, it often takes a full day to hike to each one. Cameras must also be moved occasionally because their flashes often alert animals to their presence, causing those animals to avoid the area in the future.

Due to the moist, hot climate of many of the forest locations WWF is working, the cameras often malfunction, so scientists will be lucky if two-thirds of the pictures are of any animals at all. Scientists can only achieve that rate of return in a dense forest because they do significant research before placing the cameras in order to determine the most efficient and productive locations.

© Jan Vertefeuille, WWF
Leonardo DiCaprio fixing a camera trap with WWF Nepal staff Pradeep Khanal in Bardia National Park
© Jan Vertefeuille, WWF

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Behind the camera
Although infrared sensors allow camera traps to take pictures on their own, WWF scientists and field staff can claim full credit for the amazing images you see here.
These teams do extensive research - gathering information through talking to local communities and by conducting surveys of animal tracks - in order to determine the best area to place their cameras. Then they must trek to remote locations to obtain and replace the film and ensure that the camera traps are functioning properly.

Important for scientific research

It is also important to remember that these pictures, while amazing in their own right, are actually scientific data that scientists will use to obtain critical information about wildlife and their habitats.
© Salmiah Abu
Stephen Hogg, WWF-Malaysia, developing the video camera trap used to capture the Borneo rhino on film.
© Salmiah Abu