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Frequently Asked Questions about Animals with Cameras

How did the series come about?

‘Animals With Cameras’ is a collaboration between film-makers and scientists. The series came about when the BBC’s Natural History Unit learned that an increasing number of scientists were looking to use on-board cameras to better understand their study-animals’ behaviour. The NHU team started to get in touch with scientists, offering to use their camera expertise to help them.

Why did you need to put cameras on the animals to capture the footage?

Animals are infamously difficult to work with. They’re quick - easily flying, climbing, running, burrowing or swimming where scientists and film-makers struggle to follow. Attaching temporary cameras allowed us to keep up with them wherever they went, reveal unknown aspects of their lives, and for short periods of time see the world through their eyes. The more conservationists understand about animals, the greater chance they have of protecting them.

What did you do to ensure that the animals were not harmed or distressed when putting the cameras on?

Animal welfare was our top priority. We didn’t want the animals to be uncomfortable or to have their behaviour affected in any way. Each camera was entirely bespoke and the scientists would specify the size limits, the best way to attach the camera, the maximum length of time it could be deployed and the best way to get it back afterwards. We went to great lengths to get this right. For example the weight of the meerkat’s cameras were based on the weight of the radio collars often used to monitor their movements. The cheetahs had air vents to keep them cool at high speed and Kimbang the chimpanzee could put her own camera on and take it off. In the initial stages the team also worked with habituated animals to test the camera prototypes.

What are the benefits from putting cameras on animals?

We worked closely with biologists and zoologists to try to answer existing questions they had about the animals they’re studying. The footage provided extraordinary insights into the animals’ lives that will help the future of their species and provide broader environmental impacts. In fact, it was of so much value to the scientists and conservationists involved that many are continuing to deploy cameras to find out even more.

How come some of the animals were sedated to put the cameras on them?

Some of the animals were sedated for the safety of humans and animals alike. Some animals such as the brown bears and baboons are very shy and difficult to spot so researchers used a tranquiliser in situations where it would be impossible to administer the camera without the crew or animal coming into harm. In some cases, such as that of brown bears, the scientist we worked with had been radio-collaring bears for a number of years at this location. Our cameras were added to the collars which were being fitted already.