This past week I set out a scouting camera (a.k.a. remote camera, stealth camera, camera trap). The camera is triggered by heat and motion, and when attached to a tree, will record the passing of warm-blooded creatures day and night. Having four large mango trees in our yard attracts a congregation of elephants throughout the night. They love mangoes. The test night produced some 50-plus images of elephants at various times, illuminated by the flash of the camera.
The following afternoon I took the camera to the forest edge along the bicycle trail. This trail is crossed at various locations by elephants passing from one patch of forest to another. Over time, these crossings have become established elephant paths.
When I arrived at the forest, I immediately saw a herd of seven elephants crossing the trail approximately 300 yards into the forest. By my estimate, I had 20 to 30 minutes for set-up before this group would close in. With adrenaline pumping and focus sharpened to every crack and rustle before me, I quietly stole into the forest on a well-used elephant path to search out a suitable tree for my camera, while considering the aesthetics of composition within the forest. After securing the camera to a large tree, I crept back to the trail. The same elephants emerged onto the trail once again, this time at 150 yards, and were slowly meandering my way. I retreated to the edge of the forest and found cover in a construction of piping and fence where I concealed my position. While watching the group approach through binoculars, I suddenly heard a snuffling and tearing of the vegetation to my left. Slowly turning my head, I was surprised to see the backs of two elephants at thirty yards, grazing through the tall grasses. The breeze was not in my favor, and they tested the air with their trunks attempting to determine my location. A few minutes of observation brought them to a clearing directly in front of me. I quietly made a few pictures, then, as the juvenile approached to within 15 feet, I decided it was time to retreat. Slowly rising while backing away, and without direct eye contact with the now surprised (but not alarmed) pair, I recovered my bicycle and put some distance between them as they flapped their ears in fluster and backed awkwardly to forest cover.
It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I was able to recover the camera, with several intriguing images of elephants using the path.
The images made in the daylight hours are in color, while those made using the flash are converted to black and white for this mode uses an infra-red flash. Time and temperature are recorded below each image, providing additional information.