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Featured video: camera traps catch jaguars, anteaters, and a sloth eating clay in the Amazon rainforest

These are sights that have rarely been seen by human eyes: a stealthy jaguar, a bustling giant armadillo, and, most amazingly, a sloth slurping up clay from the ground. A new compilation of camera trap videos from Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorean Amazon shows a staggering array of species, many cryptic and rare.



“The Amazon rainforest is the greatest expression of life on Earth and Yasuni, in particular, has a tremendous global conservation significance,” says Diego Mosquera, head of the camera trap program and manager of Tiputini Biodiversity Station which is run by the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.



Although operating for less than two years, the video camera trap program at Yasuni has managed to take some of the most stunning footage of Amazon animals to date. Many of the current videos were taken from salt licks where animals congregate to consume some of the essential mineral.



“I was surprised about the wide diversity of animals on salt licks,” says Mosquera. “At least 20 species visit salt licks on a regular basis, some more often than others. Although we have been studying them for a while, it is still a sort of mystery how salt licks work. Many species, including mammals, birds and even reptiles go to salt licks for different reasons, but being able to record a sloth on the ground feeding from clay is priceless!”


Animal Symphony from Diego Mosquera on Vimeo.

However, Yasuni National Park, which some experts contend may be the most biodiverse place on the planet, is currently in peril. Portions of the park are already open to oil exploitation which has brought roads, infrastructure, pollution, and settlers. In addition, an innovative and ambitious program to leave the remotest part of the park (the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini blocs) untouched by oil companies was scrapped last year by President Rafael Correa. The initiative would have left the oil fields underneath these remote blocs unexploited if the international community had been willing to pay half the expected revenue or $3.6 billion. But money rolled in too slowly for the Correa Administration. Now, the government is rapidly pushing oil development in the ITT blocs, which is also home to indigenous tribes that have chosen isolation.



“[Yasuni] is one of the last wild places we have and its extraordinary biodiversity is the key to our future,” says Mosquera. “By protecting Yasuni we not only protect millions of species, but we also guarantee the ecological processes that are vital to our own survival”


To read more about Yasuni’s video camera trap program: Could camera trap videos galvanize the world to protect Yasuni from oil drilling?




Species in order of appearance:











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(11/07/2013) Even ten years ago it would have been impossible to imagine: clear-as-day footage of a jaguar plodding through the impenetrable Amazon, or a bicolored-spined porcupine balancing on a branch, or a troop of spider monkeys feeding at a clay lick, or a band of little coatis racing one-by-one from the dense foliage. These are things that even researchers who have spent a lifetime in the Amazon may never see. Now anyone can: scientists at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park have recently begun using camera trap videos to take movies of animals few will ever view in their lifetimes. The videos—following years of photo camera trapping—provide an intimate view of a world increasingly threatened by the oil industry.

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