Mitragyna Speciosa

Increasingly, motion-triggered DSLR (or digital single-lens reflex) cameras equipped with a flash are being used to take better photos of animals in the wild. These photos can be very valuable for conservation because they show the public the private lives of important and endangered animals. However, some animals get spooked by the flash, which can change their behavior. If an animal is particularly sensitive to this disturbance, it can be ill-advised to try to photograph them using flash cameras.

We were curious about the response of pumas to motion-triggered DSLR cameras. Working with wildlife photographer Sebastian Kennerknecht (pumapix.com), we paired up his DSLR camera with one of our motion-triggered video trail cameras. We had great success! See an example of one of his photos below (more to come).

49M at 6 months. Photo by Sebastian Kennerknecht.

We collected the video camera to see how the pumas responded to the flash. It appeared that they were undisturbed by it, and continued to feed as if nothing had happened (see the video below – the flash goes off 11 seconds in). At least for pumas, this is a good sign that motion-triggered flash photography might not be disruptive enough to change their behavior. However, more work is needed to truly understand the ethics of using these sorts of cameras for a diversity of animals.