Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Candid Creatures / Roland W. Kays

4 out of 5 stars
In "Candid Creatures," the first major book to reveal the secret lives of animals through motion-sensitive game cameras, biologist Roland Kays has assembled over 600 remarkable photographs. Drawing from archives of millions of color and night-vision photographs collected by hundreds of researchers, Kays has selected images that show the unique perspectives of wildlife from throughout the world. Using these photos, he tells the stories of scientific discoveries that camera traps have enabled, such as living proof of species thought to have been extinct and details of predator-prey interactions.

Each image captures a moment frozen in the camera's flash as animals move through their wild habitats. Kays also discusses how scientists use camera traps to address conservation issues, creating solutions that allow humans and wild animals to coexist. More than just a collection of amazing animal pictures, the book's text, maps, and illustrations work together to describe the latest findings in the fast-moving field of wildlife research. "Candid Creatures" is a testament to how the explosion of game cameras around the world has revolutionized the study of animal ecology. The powerful combination of pictures and stories of discovery will fascinate anyone interested in science, nature, wildlife biology, or photography.

Have you ever bookmarked a webcam? Maybe one at an African watering hole or at a bird’s nest?  Have you found yourself obsessively checking back, to see what’s been happening, which animals are visiting or what the parent birds are feeding their chicks?

This book gives you another look into the secret lives of animals. Biologists are getting more & more creative about collecting data without invading animal lives overtly.  I’ve read in the past about setting bait with barbwire surrounds, meaning that the animals that claim the bait will leave behind hair on the barbs from which genetic info can be gleaned, but this is even less invasive—let a remote camera gather your data.

The only downside that I can see is that animals DO notice the cameras, with greater and lesser amounts of hostility. Chimps check them out, but generally leave them alone once they’re sure the camera isn’t harmful.  Elephants, on the other hand, seem to use the “Hulk smash” form of camera exploration.

I spent over 15 years in volunteer natural history education, often feeling like I had been studying for that position since I first began to read, and yet there were animals covered in this collection that I had never heard of. Plus interesting ways of using camera trap data to learn more about these elusive creatures’ lives.  However, the book begins with an animal we all feel familiar with: tigers.  (Because the world and the internet are all about teh kittehs.)  Field work with big predators can be difficult (they are elusive) and even dangerous (the big ones can kill humans), so remote cameras are a boon to the researcher.

Covering animals from Aardvarks to Vampire bats, in this book you get the “greatest hits” from camera traps from all over the world. I particularly appreciated a few illustrations from the Canadian Rocky Mountains, just west of my city.  U of Calgary’s Environmental Design department featured a display a number of years ago of photos from some of their trail cameras which were fascinating.  A group of hikers on a trail, followed seconds later by a cougar or a grizzly bear.

Nature lovers will be rewarded with interesting & up-to-date info, plus the great photos. Since I recommended that our public library purchase this book, I am very pleased that it is such an interesting volume.

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