TEAM scientists take picture of the elusive jaguar in the Manu National Park, Peru

The international Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network’s stunning scrap book of wild animals in their natural habitat, widely regarded as a sort of facebook for wildlife, has just crossed a milestone.

TEAM scientists have taken the one millionth camera trap photo and the honour has gone to the elusive jaguar in the Manu National Park, Peru, one of the 16 study sites in 14 countries across Asia, Africa and Americas. Wildlife conservationists the world over are rejoicing at the achievement as this relatively new body of wildlife research — a repository of camera trap images — would reveal more about the health of the Earth’s dwindling tropical forests.

The 16 sites include Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (Indonesia), Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda), Caxiuanã National Forest (Brazil) and Pasoh Forest Reserve (Malaysia).

The world’s largest camera trap study “provides real-time information on how unseen animal populations are being affected by changes in climate, habitat and land use; changes that often affect the flow of goods and life-sustaining services to people as well as the health of tropical forests,” says a note for the media from TEAM Network based in Arlington, USA.

The wildlife photo treasure, a result of five-year global partnership between Conservation International, Missouri Botanical Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Wildlife Conservation Society and over 80 local partnerships, is serving as an early warning system for nature, monitoring changes in tropical ecosystems and reporting shifts in biomass, rainfall and biodiversity density.

In India, in a sheer coincidence, camera trap photos of the equally elusive and charismatic mammal, the red panda, have just been obtained by WWF-India staff from the remote heights of Arunachal Pradesh. Two years ago, similar images of an adult female tiger and cubs at the site of a cattle-kill in Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh revived hopes of recovery of the big cat population.

“The one-millionth image is an amazing representation of our camera trap work and it symbolises the success we have had with this programme in collecting new data,” said Dr. Jorge Ahumada, TEAM’s Technical Director in the note. This data, replicated over time and space, is crucial to understand the effects of global and regional threats on forest mammals and to anticipate extinctions before it is too late.

Working through local partner institutions in various countries, TEAM site managers and technicians set up camera traps during the dry season.

Cameras are placed in a grid throughout the forest every two square kilometres and left in the forest for thirty days. Each site collects between 10,000 and 30,000 photographs a year.

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