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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Vulture Close Up?

CCF has been using motion sensitive camera traps to record wildlife movements for many years. With the coming of the digital age however, the sophistication has increased considerably along with the quality and quantity of images. It can be a costly business however, with the best cameras ranging in price from $450-$550USD each, and every now and then, the very wildlife we are trying to track will turn around and shred the cameras that are silently observing them.

Last year a brown hyaena took exception to one such camera and chewed it to death, and on several other occasions cameras have been pulled off of trees and carried off into the bush by roving bands of intensely curious baboons. Generally the baboons lose interest within a few minutes, but finding the cameras can still be a challenge; they often sustain damage in the process, and one ended up at the bottom of a waterhole.
The hyaena got it. (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund
The most recent incident involved a pair of animals working in unfortunate harmony. A warthog got past the defensive circle of acacia thorns that had been arranged around the camera, and proceeded to batter it off of the post we'd tied it to. Still functional, although now pointing skywards, the camera was able to record the subsequent attack of a lappet-faced vulture, who pecked repeatedly at the front of the camera and eventually wrecked the lens that covers the sensor. I can only assume that the vulture assumed it was something dead on the ground, and by the time it had finished pecking, it was indeed something dead on the ground.
Lappet-faced vulture extreme close up. (c) Cheetah Conservation Fund
Through the kindness of one of our donors, we have recently obtained a small number of security boxes for the cameras, enabling us to increase the protection for few of them. These steel enclosures are custom-designed for each camera trap model and retail at between $40-50USD each. Unfortunately they are by their very nature heavy and therefore expensive to ship. None of the cameras they've been fitted to however have suffered any subsequent mishaps and we're keen to acquire more such enclosures.

We are also looking to considerably extend the range and coverage of our camera trapping survey and are hoping to increase our number of cameras in the next few months. You can help with CCF’s invaluable ecological research into Namibian wildlife by purchasing one of these cameras for us. Our preferred camera trap models are the Bushnell Trophy Cam Pro model 119436 ($200USD) and Reconyx Hyperfire HC500 ($450USD). For more information on CCF’s Ecology wishlist, please visit the CCF's Ecology Wish List page by clicking here.

Thanks!

Rob Thomson
Rhino Ecologist

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