When I met Andy Andy Whitworth, research manager at the Crees Foundation(a Peru-based non-profit organisation) and a researcher with Scotland’s University of Glasgow, several years ago, we hit it off straight away. His enthusiasm and passion was something I totally understood and when he described the work he planned to do with Bushnell trail cams, I could not not help but wish I could head straight out there with Andy and the team!
Working together, we secured a really good deal with Bushnell, ensuring that the team had as many trip cams as they could afford, to take out into Manu. About a year ago, we arranged more camera traps for the second phase of the project and 6 months ago, 80 arboreal Bushnells (placed in tree tops) and 40 more Bushnells on the ground were deployed in the Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru, one of the world’s most biodiverse conservation areas.
The team positioned the cameras at various heights throughout four locations in the reserve, from ground level to as high as 41 metres (123 feet), in order to capture species that might be separating their niches vertically as opposed to horizontally.
Setting these cameras is not easy. In incredibly humid and difficult conditions, the team set most of the cams high in the trees, in an innovative project to try to understand what species are using the treetop highways. Information gathered from these arboreal Bushnells help the research scientists understand how the logging or hunting affects the biodiversity, giving a better understanding of the impacts that human have on wildlife in this globally important conservation area,
Today Andy contacted me to inform me that they had captured some truly incredible footage on this round of camera trapping and I literally gasped out loud when I saw what they had captured.
For the first time, a Harpy Eagle has been caught on the Bushnell! This eagle (Harpia harpyja) can be a full metre tall with a wingspan twice that. They prey on mammals like monkeys and sloths and this footage is simply breathtaking! I can only imagine the excitement at opening these files… WOW!!!
The primates in the tree tops are species that most commonly appear on the Bushnells and the researchers were delighted to capture these amazing clips of the rare Peruvian woolly monkey (Lagothrix cana) and the black-faced spider monkey (Ateles chamek). Manu is a stronghold for these rare species whose numbers have dropped dramatically due to habitat loss and hunting.
Of course, there are many incredible bird species in this region and, sure enough, the Bushnells captured some cracking footage… the soundtrack to these is just wonderful…
Something I would imagine that the researchers always hope to capture, is the larger predators… the cats. Again, the skill of the researchers placing the Bushnells in strategic positions has meant some truly spectacular footage was recorded… it certainly got my heart racing… imagine popping the SD card in and getting this…..
I appreciate completely the skill, dedication and trials the team have gone through to capture this kind of footage. Trail cameras are proving to be an invaluable tool in the conservation world. Many of these species are rarely seen, or if they are, it is just a fleeting glimpse. This footage is giving such good quality videos that it is not only showing the researchers which species are present, but also how they are moving through the forest, behaviour and interactions. This helps researchers begin to understand the complexities of these three-dimensional tropical forest ecosystems.
Thank you Andy and the team for sharing these jaw-dropping captures… it makes me even more determined to get out to Manu one day… with a suitcase full of Bushnells of course!!