Ecuadorean mammals on Google Earth

From New Scientist:

Rare animals to feature on Google Earth

* 30 March 2009

FANS of wildlife documentaries could soon catch up with the latest rare animal sightings from their computers.

Cameras equipped with infrared triggers, known as camera traps, are used to identify, count and observe larger mammals in isolated areas. Now researchers from Earthwatch are adding the latest images from their camera traps in Ecuador‘s cloud forests to Google Earth.

They hope to raise awareness of endangered species, encouraging donations and attracting tourists to the region to support conservation efforts. “It’s a form of fishing or hunting that doesn’t kill anything,” says Earthwatch scientist Mika Peck of the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK, who is leading the project.

Mammals currently on camera in the cloud forest include the spectacled bear [see also here]- or “Paddington Bear” of South America – puma [see also here] and deer.

The project should also enable researchers to pool sightings and information on animals from different areas, says Peck. “The idea is to expand this into other reserves and eventually inspire the local government to use this to monitor all their forests.” Peck hopes to have the system up and running by July.

Issue 2701 of New Scientist magazine

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