by Steven Simpson
Camera Trapping: Wildlife Management and Research is a medium format book that immediately grabs your attention with its weight – 1.25kg in 367 pages is a lot for a new specialist subject. And its punchy cover photo of a wild dog looking straight to camera really hits the spot. Paul Meek and Peter Fleming, working as principal editors, marshal 83 contributors to present a high-quality benchmark of the developments and uses of camera traps in Australia and overseas for monitoring native and invasive wildlife, particularly mammals.
Within 10 specific case studies, there are seven papers on camera technology, its constraints and pitfalls; eight papers on survey design; plus a further seven on data management and analysis. Then comes a concluding paper putting contemporary camera trapping in focus. These offer the reader a unique view into a growing global phenomenon in which the technology is advancing rapidly. This is the first book on the subject and a goldmine of information.
There are revealing case studies into camera trap use in Victorian national parks, infectious disease in Tasmanian devils, diurnal activity in nocturnal wombats, endangered rock-wallabies and malleefowls in the wheatbelt of Western Australia. The technology section definitively covers a lot of ground, including camera trap effectiveness and population estimates. It also monitors poison bait uptake, fine scale resource partitioning and sand plots.
The data management section extends to keyboard free data organisation, changes in habitat occupancy and computer assistance in small mammal identification. There are references to camera trapping and privacy law in Australia (with an appendix of relevant legislation), security and illegal activity. All of the chapters are individually referenced with a useful 11-page index, including the standard and scientific names of the various species.
With regular use comes success, and in recent years, camera traps have revealed species new to science such as an elephant-shrew in Tanzania in 2008. They have also rediscovered others like the saola, also known as the Vu Quang Ox or Asian unicorn, in Vietnam in 2013. Cameras have extended known ranges, recorded new animal behaviours and conveyed these findings to a worldwide audience.
There are some great photographs in this book. Indeed, most chapters are illustrated by black and white photos, maps, text figures and data tables. The book also includes 54 color plates of the natural world in action. There are remarkable photographs showing enlightening and entertaining images of animals ‘doing their thing’.
Most of us are lucky enough to have ‘hold your breath, crikey’ wildlife encounters when out shooting and some of these photos are no exception. The photographs of the brown goshawk catching a zebra finch virtually at ground level, and spotted-tailed quolls out and about in daylight have to been seen to be believed. These days, there are so many images in the media that you almost take them for granted. However, those of us who shoot rarely underplay the hard work that contributes to a rewarding outcome. That is certainly the case with this book.
The publication should appeal to recreational shooters, pest controllers, private landowners and public land managers. Photographers, students and researchers will also find Camera Trapping: Wildlife Management and Research a ‘must have’ for their bookshelf. It can be ordered from your local bookshop, online stores or the publisher, CSIRO Publishing.