Camera study confirms risk to animals

The first global camera trap study of mammals has snapped more than 100 species – along with poachers and even tourists – in nearly 52,000 images which have confirmed the damage caused by habitat destruction.

From African elephants to chimpanzees, pumas, anteaters and endangered gorillas, the camera traps captured 105 species of mammal at seven sites in Uganda, Tanzania, Indonesia, Laos, Suriname, Brazil and Costa Rica.

Researchers using images from 420 cameras compared the shots from the different areas which had landscapes ranging from continuous forest to fragmented habitat to analyse which species were found, their sizes and food.

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Their study, published in the journal the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, revealed that continuous forests and larger protected areas had higher numbers of mammal species than areas where the habitat was broken up. There was also a greater variety of animal sizes, including populations of larger mammals.

Conservation International said the loss of habitat is “slowly but surely killing” the Earth’s range of mammals.

Some groups, particularly insect-eating mammals, appeared more vulnerable to habitat loss than others, such as herbivores.

The research will form a baseline to monitor changes in mammal species, some 25 per cent of which are under threat globally, according to Dr Jorge Ahumada, ecologist with the Tropical Ecology Assessment Monitoring network (Team) at Conservation International, who led the study.

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Of the seven areas, the Central Suriname Nature Reserve recorded the most species with 28 caught in the camera traps.

The Nam Kading National Protected Area in Laos had the lowest number of species recorded, with just 13, which the researchers suggest may be to do with higher levels of hunting in the area.

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