Mammals and camera traps

Mammals play a very important role in ecosystems performing a wide range of functions such as seed dispersal, predation, herbivory, ecosystem engineers, among others. Many of them are considered keystone species whose effects are not only disproportionately large relative to their abundance, but are functionally irreplaceable. A good knowledge of the presence and distribution of species is crucial to plan and evaluate conservation strategies for a region, but how do we study them?

There are various methods to monitor the presence, distribution and abundance of mammals. Despite the effort invested in research throughout the Amazon, there are few complete inventories of mammals and knowledge about the distribution of rare and elusive species is still scarce. Commonly used methods for mammalian inventories are line transects, direct observations, track and scat identification, traps, and interviews with local people.

It is then that the use of camera traps constitutes a direct method that allows the observation of elusive or rare species with relatively little effort, in addition to allowing the description of their use of the habitat, activity patterns and their relative abundance, among other aspects of the ecology of the recorded species. Its use has become increasingly popular in recent years, as camera technology has improved and equipment costs have fallen.

The current camera trap project ongoing at the Manu Learning Centre, is a research into mammal behaviour at streams. Here we are using camera traps along the Lucomayo stream, a tributary of the Madre de Dios river, to attempt to capture whether mammals use streams as “highways” to travel quicker through the dense forest or whether streams act as a “blockade” which mammals avoid walking along due to fear of predation. The confounding effects of seasonality, predation risk, and fear of humans undoubtedly impact how mammals interact with streams, and we hope this study will shed some light on these complex interactions

BSc Renato Colan Rodriguez – Senior Field Staff

MSc Ian Connolly – Professional Interchange Participant