Camera Trapping

“The bush is a busy place when people aren’t around”

I’ve found myself on foot in ‘Big 5’ country a lot in recently. It’s been two years since my first experience of walking in the bush (a story for another time). These days I’ve got a lot more hours of bush walking under my belt and still, I feel a few stubborn butterflies fluttering around. Seven months ago, I set up cameras in the reserves taking part in my study. Since then, I’ve returned to these cameras monthly to check them. These trips are done to ensure the cameras are still there and no wild beast has taken a disliking to them and damaged them, as well as to change the batteries and retrieve the vital SD cards.

For those of you that don’t know, camera traps are motion triggered cameras that come in a wide range of sizes. The ones I’m using are about the size of a wine bottle. They are set up in strategic areas and have the unbelievable ability to capture absolutely everything. Unbelievable, because they have this knack of irritating the hell out of you and lighting up your day in the space of only a few photos. They’re able to capture anything from a blade of grass blowing in the wind (100’s), to a herd of elephants wandering by. These nifty little devices are great tools for zoologists as they generate a lot of data with relatively little effort. Meaning, we can sit back, put our feet up, enjoy a beer or three, and forget about them for a while. During these relaxing times, the cameras are slaving away doing all the work for us.

Amakhala 4

Once the beer is drunk and the month wait is over, it’s time to head back into the bush again. It’s the best time of the month; getting out of the office and into the bush to check the cameras. On returning to each site, most of the time I find the cameras with little difficulty. On a few occasions, however, I find myself wandering around in circles, without a clue as to where the camera is, blaming the “stupid” hammy-down GPS I have. In the end I find the spot where the GPS wants me to go, and what do you know; there’s the camera, and me apologising to the GPS. Sometimes the cameras are where I left them but not quite how I left them. They could be tilted at strange angles or even lying face down on the game path, being no good to anyone. Once the hard yards are done, SD cards safely in hand, and the safety of PLC in sight, I relax and start dreaming up the possible pictures I have.

PLC (Pikinini Land Cruiser) in action while in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Photo – Beth Walker)

These handy little cameras have come to form a large part of my current thesis. They’re the little devices generating the data I’ll be using to determine what impact elephants are having on other mammals in the thicket. Each reserve has three cameras set up, meaning there are 30 cameras set up all over the place taking pictures of everything all day, every day. At the end of each trip, I sit with hundreds of images to go through and process. This provides me with some amazing photo viewing; from animals, I’ve never seen before to some just plain awesome shots, as well as the opportunity to see what exactly happened to the camera lying face in the mud. Elephants seem to be the route of this problem, ripping the camera easily from its fortified position and discarding them on their way.

Now seven months have passed, hundreds of kilometers driven, plenty of batteries drained, hundreds of pictures taken and many days going through pictures; several noteworthy pictures have emerged. As this website is designed to give you a glimpse into my life as a zoology student, I’m going to share some of my favourite photos. You can find these pictures here.

Please feel free to comment, like or ask me any questions.


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