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Meet the scientists

The Animals with Cameras team worked closely throughout the filming period with world leading scientists. Here’s what some of them had to say about the footage THEY saw from the animals' cameras.

Many of the scientists had been studying their animal species for many years and had frustrations or limitations with conventional techniques.

Mimi Swift

Chimpanzee expert Mimi Swift explains:

“The young chimps spend so much time in the trees that the only way to understand them was to enter that world with them. I tried to climb the trees to get a closer look, but however much I tried I could not get high enough to see what was going on in the treetops.”

Mimi was overwhelmed by how developed some of baby chimpanzees were during some of their more private moments:

“When I saw the video footage of this beautiful young chimp weaving her own nest so intricately it brought tears to my eyes. This is something she should have learned to do from her mother, but she had lost her when she was just six months old.”

Leah Findlay

For a lot of the scientists it was the unprecedented access that the onboard cameras could give them that was so appealing.

Leah Findlay spent months chasing after baboons to try and capture their behaviour with camera traps on the ground:

“During my PhD I would get so frustrated with the video footage we could get – the baboons were so far away and the detail was so bad. But the BBC cameras got us up close and personal to the baboons, and when you work with animals that are forever running away from you, it was really nice to get that perspective.”

For baboon scientist Dr Leah Findlay, her most memorable moment was more than the physical footage, it was seeing the farmer’s reaction to the video clips:

“He said he feels a lot more sorry for the hungry baboons now. That really meant a lot to me. By showing the farmers the baboons’ life outside the farm, we can hopefully increase their tolerance towards baboons. Having the footage is so much more empowering than just telling the farmers this.”

Leah hopes to use this video footage to help educate more farmers in South Africa and to help increase tolerance and understanding between farmers and baboons.

Laura Meldrum

The camera technology was something that was a natural progression for a lot of the scientists and many were already using data loggers or GPS trackers to study their species.

Laura Meldrum had been working with radio collared meerkats for a while:

“Usually at least one member of each of our groups wears a radio collar. Our meerkats are habituated to our presence, which means that they are happy with us being close by when we do field work. The meerkats we chose were happy having cameras put on. We made sure that the cameras weren’t too heavy or affected their movement and could be put on and taken off quickly and easily.”

For Laura it was seeing the meerkats underground that she found particularly special:

“Seeing that the younger meerkats often enjoy a bit of a play down in their pitch-black tunnels, keeping the adults awake, was great to witness. Having the cameras capture the sounds they make below ground was great – we found out that they’re not a quiet group when below! But the best moment captured was the new born pups below. We never see meerkat pups until they’re at least 2 weeks old, being able to see the very first moments of their lives was amazing.”

Marlice Van Vuuren

Some of the animals took to the cameras quicker than others.

Cheetah expert Marlice Van Vuuren was especially surprised at how well the cheetahs responded to the cameras:

“the cheetahs grew used to having a camera attached to their heads in record time. I found the cameras to be extremely light-weight and a near-perfect fit, with only minor adjustments needing to be made. The cheetahs were not stressed and that’s thanks to the great design of the cameras. Once the process of fitting the camera mounts was completed, the three cheetahs could follow their own behaviour.”

Marlice describes a moment of revelation:

“Watching the footage, I became a part of the hunting process myself. It felt like I myself was the fourth cheetah participating in the hunt. We could closely monitor their hunting strategy and technique and gain insight into their choice of prey, without disturbing nor intruding in any capacity.”

Dr Cagan Sekercioglu

The bears in Turkey however took more convincing, as Dr Cagan Sekercioglu explains:

“Putting the cameras on the bears was easy but keeping them on was hard! The first BBC camera we put on the bear called Faruk was immediately broken by him, and he did not even have to try hard. He just touched it, as if wondering, 'what is this?' and snapped it right off. Bears are so strong”.

John Arnould

The hard work paid off, however, as many of the scientists were blown away by what they learnt from the onboard cameras.

Professor John Arnould had been studying seals for over 20 years:

“I’ve learnt so much from the camera footage that it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve discovered they eat a lot more of some prey types than we previously thought and some prey we didn’t know they consumed. And we’re beginning to understand just how much time and effort these animals devote to vigilance and predator avoidance.”

Jorge Fontes

Jorge Fontes from the University of the Azores got a fresh insight into Devil Rays from the camera footage:

“We believed devil rays were essentially pelagic animals that travelled through the mid-waters of the ocean, so it was quite exciting to find that when deep diving, the rays 'fly' quite close to the sea bottom over all kinds of terrain. It was also quite amazing to see how the descent is powered by intense swimming, burning a lot of energy when they could quietly glide down… They must have a good reason to do it!”

All of these scientists plan to continue to use cameras in future studies and hope to learn even more about their elusive lives and continue revealing new ground-breaking discoveries.