- Romina Castagnino is the host of our new video series that features camera trap footage of wildlife behavior
- Candid Animal Cam episodes are published every Tuesday and they share a wide variety of facts and footage of fascinating animals like tapirs and spectacled bears
- Trained as a conservation biologist, Romi has used camera traps extensively in her wildlife studies and shares this knowledge in each episode
- Teachers and parents with students at home are invited to view these videos with kids, and to use the links provided to learn more about each animal, every Tuesday
Romina Castagnino is Mongabay’s resident conservation scientist, and in addition to her regular reporting duties, she’s taken on a new role: hosting our Candid Animal Cam video series, which shares fascinating footage of wild animals captured on camera traps.
Though each short episode shares an amazing number of facts to complement the great footage Romi finds (or has captured herself in the field), we wanted to share a bit more now that the show has published its first half dozen episodes.
Mongabay: What expertise do you bring to Candid Animal Cam, Romi?
Romina Castagnino: I am a conservation biologist with a focus on tropical wildlife. I am also a wildlife photographer and am now diving into the world of filmmaking. I was born and raised in Peru and in 2017 I moved to Australia to study for my master’s in conservation science.
I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Environmental Studies in Peru with a research project studying the habitat use of ocelots in the Peruvian Amazon:
And for my Master’s thesis, I examined niche partitioning between 11 carnivore species and evaluated the impact of anthropogenic factors on the carnivore community in a highly threatened biodiversity hotspot within the Peruvian tropical montane cloud forests.
Both projects used camera traps to conduct wildlife surveys.
What makes camera traps so useful to researchers and conservationists?
Camera traps are a window into the secretive lives of animals. A lot of animals are either elusive or nocturnal, so you need cameras to get close to them. Camera traps are fantastic conservation tools, they not only record the presence of animals but you can also use the data to study behavior, how species interact over space and time, and the composition of whole animal communities. They also provide a great opportunity for people to interact with nature in remote natural habitats.
Your experience and studies make you the perfect host for Mongabay’s new Youtube series Candid Animal Cam. Of the first 6 episodes, please tell us about your favorites:
I have two favorites so far: the spectacled bear in episode two and the South American coati in episode four. They are such endearing and curious characters.
In the videos, we see them getting close to the cameras and trying to figure out what these green boxes strapped to the trees are!
Coatis, also called coatimundis:
A recent episode features the puma, or cougar, which as you say in the video has the most names of any animal (80!). What strikes you most about the puma footage you chose to show the viewers?
Pumas are amazing animals —the camera traps seem to love these felines because I have seen them a lot during my study projects. They have even taken naps in front of the camera! We’ve also seen many pumas leave their scent near camera traps to either mark their territory or let females know they are around.
Where are you finding all this great footage for the show, and what is it like when you’re viewing new footage for the first time?
At first we started the series with the camera trap footage from my personal projects in Peru, but now we have generous biologists and conservation organizations sharing theirs with us.* Every time I receive new footage, I feel like Christmas morning when it’s time to open presents, and I’m sure Manon Verchot, our editor, feels the same way. You never know what behavior you are going to see!
Are there any animals you’re really hoping to share with viewers?
I would love to get footage of my favorite species, the Sunda clouded leopard from Borneo and Sumatra. This wild cat was classified as a species, distinct from the mainland clouded leopard, only in 2006. I would also like to feature arboreal species. Setting up camera traps in the canopy is a practice that is gaining more momentum over the last few years, and I’m sure Mongabay viewers will enjoy discovering what animals live all the way up in the trees.
A new episode of Candid Animal Cam is published each Tuesday to Mongabay.com and to our Youtube Channel, click on ‘subscribe’ there to never miss an episode. Teachers and parents with students at home might want to put reminders in their calendars.
*Researchers with camera trap footage to share of (extra points for video of Sunda clouded leopards!) are invited to send an email to [email protected] with the subject line ‘Candid Animal Cam’ so we can arrange a way for you to share files with our team. All footage providers are credited.
Romi and Manon also publish versions of each episode in Spanish, here, on Saturdays.