Monitoring Elusive Mammals
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Conservationists have a difficult time protecting creatures they
can't see, even large, charismatic animals that would otherwise
garner considerable attention. Some nocturnal predators, for
example, and many of the animals that inhabit dense, remote jungles
are seldom observed, so one has a hard time gauging their
conservation status. Might a seemingly rare species already be
extinct? Or might it be thriving? To answer such questions, field
biologists are turning to a technique developed more than a century
ago: "camera trapping," which involves the use of
unattended cameras rigged to take pictures automatically when an
animal wanders into the field of view. With such photos,
conservationists can determine the relative abundance of various
animals and can in some circumstances estimate absolute population density.