August 28, 2009, 4:42 pm
By Henry Fountain
Wildlife Conservation Society
Dot Earth likes a good animal photo as much as the next blog, particularly when the animal is beautiful and endangered. So we’re pleased to present a photograph of a snow leopard, taken by a camera trap in the Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan. (Here’s more on camera traps and Afghanistan’s elusive wildlife.)
Camera traps are used by conservationists to document the presence of animals that because of their rarity, behavior or other factors would otherwise be seldom seen. The basic trap consists of a camera and a means of triggering it — often an infrared device or some other motion sensor.
Workers try to set the traps in areas the target animal is likely to pass through — en route to a water or food source, for example. And the sensor is calibrated so that smaller animals or swaying tree limbs shouldn’t trigger it. Despite all this, camera traps don’t always capture their quarry. And even when they do, the subject is sometimes out of focus, or half out of the frame or plagued by red eye. And sometimes you get a fabulous shot of the animal’s derriere.
This photograph, though, is spectacular (if a trifle cockeyed). The trap was set up by workers with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the people who run the Bronx Zoo and undertake conservation projects around the world. In the Wakhan Corridor they are conducting wildlife surveys with the eventual goal of establishing a protected area.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org