September 29, 2012

say cheese!

Some of you may know that our National Zoo, run by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., has been home to a number of giant anteaters over the years (see, for example, A Visit to D.C.). What may surprise you, however, is that the Smithsonian also supports the study of animal behaviors in the wild! To wit, the giant anteater photo above was captured in a Peruvian forest as part of a research project that used a camera trap—a popular method for observing animals in their natural habitats.

So what the heck is a camera trap? Here's how it works: Scientists set up cameras in remote places where wild animals are thought to roam, and whenever the camera senses motion or body heat, it snaps a series of pictures! The main benefit to science of such a system is that biologists don't have to waste time sitting out in the jungle or in an open field waiting for an animal to come along. Plus, since the camera is an inanimate object, animals are much more likely to approach!

If you're curious to learn more about the Smithsonian's camera trap programs, visit their WILD site, which explains how it's done in a bit more detail. You can also check out some of the wild animals they've seen this way, from birds to bears to leopards to (of course) anteaters. •>~

Update: Don't miss these two fantastic videos of a giant anteaters doing their thing in the woods. The first was caught with a camera trap some 500 meters from the Amazon Rainforest Conservation Center Lodge in Las Piedras, Peru. The anteater's backside looks pretty wet...wonder if he/she was just coming in from a swim? The second provides an insightful look at an anteater wallowing directly in a water hole.