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WWF Assignment to Capture Rare Camera Trap Images

Posted by Will on

In August last year I undertook an assignment for World Wildlife Fund in the Zambezi Region of Namibia. Our aim was to obtain high-quality images of elusive animals, some of which had only ever been photographed on research cameras before.

The Zambezi Region is a narrow strip of land, formerly known as the Caprivi Strip, that runs between Botswana and Angola, all the way to the Zambezi river in the East. It is the heart of the Kavango – Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, otherwise known as KAZA, which links wildlife populations in Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. WWF works with the governments, local communities and species conservation programmes throughout the KAZA region.

Sunset in Bwabwata National Park

For many years, Lise Hanssen has been studying wildlife populations in the region, with a particular focus on the carnivores. Her research utilised over 100 research camera traps to build up a picture of predator populations for the first time. She was able to identify the ranges of leopards, lions, hyenas and African wild dogs. Her findings prove how vital this area is to carnivore populations and movements throughout the KAZA region.

I teamed up with WWF and Lise to try and get high-quality photographs of her study subjects. However, it quickly became apparent that this was not going to be easy, as the carnivores are extremely elusive and hard to see. I spent two weeks in Namibia trying to find and photograph them but didn’t catch a glimpse of a single one!

Fortunately, we had foreseen this challenge and I had come prepared with five Camtraptions camera trap systems. These are similar to the Lise’s research cameras but incorporate a high-quality DSLR camera instead. You can watch my short video blog showing one of my camera trap set-ups below.

I relied on Lise’s research and expertise to identify several promising sites for my traps. These included locations both inside and outside the national parks. At the end of my trip, I left my cameras in place so they could continue working for a further ten weeks.

Lise’s predictions were spot on and over the following weeks my camera traps started capturing images of the key species we were after including leopards, hyenas, African wild dogs and even a serval cat.

Leopard
Serval Cat
Wild Dog at Night

Of course, my traps also photographed many other creatures. One trap in particular, positioned near a waterhole in the Mashi Conservancy, captured an incredible number of animals including elephants, giraffes, eland, wildebeest, warthogs and bushpigs. It also took thousands of photos of guineafowls. In fact, I estimate that I had ten images of guineafowls for every other animal photographed. Sorting through them all took a quite a while!

Guieafowl and Eland at a Waterhole
Guineafowls
Mud Party!
Bushpigs
Elephants at the Waterhole
Warthogs

The greatest challenge of all was photographing the lions. These cats spend much of their time outside the national parks and are extremely shy. Even Lise has never seen them other than on her research cameras. I set up two camera traps near waterholes that the lions sometimes visit. In the three months that my traps were operating, the lions passed by twice, resulting in some very rare shots of these secretive big cats.

A young male lion caught on camera trap.

I hope that my images, in combination with WWF’s efforts and Lise’s valuable research, can help inspire conservation action in this important part of the KAZA region.

Eland at Sunrise
Camera Trap Leopard

You can find out more about the camera traps used in this project at Camtraptions. You can follow Lise Hanssen’s research on the Kwando Carnivore Project Facebook page. You can find out more about WWF’s work in the KAZA region and see more of my images from the project here: Photographing Africa’s Most Elusive Animals.

15 Comments

  1. Ozkan said: February 11, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    Amazing images! Well done! Would you be kind enough to share your focusing method? manual focus or auto? What lens did you use the most in traps?

  2. Will said: February 11, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Thanks Ozkan. Manual focus is best for camera traps. I can position the sensor to control approximately how far away the animal needs to be so I can set the focus. I was mostly using a an 18mm lens on a 1.6x crop body.

  3. Valerie said: February 11, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    What great photos and I enjoyed the video on the process of getting them. I do giggle a bit, because, I’m sure when the light flashes they’re like “wth”!!!! as evidenced by some of the looks on their faces. There’s one picture, in particular, I’m curious about. It’s some kind of elk maybe and it has something all around his eyes. Are they bugs or is that part of their makeup?

  4. Will said: February 11, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Hi Valerie, thanks :) I think you’re referring to this photo of an eland:
    http://www.burrard-lucas.com/photo/namibia/eland_night.html
    I think they are moths that have been attracted to the salt in the tears.

  5. Jack said: February 12, 2016 at 2:03 am

    Awesome photos! I especially like the leopard and what looks like a serval cat.
    What make of camera(s) do you use in the camera traps?
    Thanks for sharing all this with us.

  6. Tarun Kr Chaturvedi said: February 12, 2016 at 8:59 am

    NICE PICS & GREAT COLLECTION

  7. Will said: February 12, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Thanks Jack! I was using Canon EOS 700D / Rebel T5i Digital SLR Cameras for this project.

  8. Betsy Meier said: February 13, 2016 at 3:10 am

    IAbsolutely awesome pictures! I never realized there were Guinea Hens in Africa. We used to raise them here in Colorado

  9. Manie Verster said: February 13, 2016 at 9:02 am

    Thank for posting these pictures. You have been very quiet but I was so glad when I saw your e-mail in my mailbox. I especially love the picture of the sunset and the elephants. Amazing!!

  10. serge said: February 13, 2016 at 11:29 am

    really magical.

  11. Jean de K. said: February 13, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    These are really great photos. I love the serval cat’s, where it looks like it wants to eat the camera. ^^

    May I ask how you set your exposure settings? I assume you use aperture or shutter speed priority, but I’ve found that it doesn’t take into account the flash…

  12. Mike said: February 14, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Great work , thanks for the wonderful images. There is one shot of a Hyena lunging that reveals how large and powerful their legs are. Amazing Thanks

  13. Maria manuela lopes said: February 14, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Wonderful fotos

  14. Victoria Christophe said: March 10, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    These are some Amazing images! Thanks for sharing

  15. Ivan said: March 31, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Great work!
    I really enjoyed your photos.
    Bravissimo!!!

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