The day a tiger came to school ...

... And other wild an­i­mals caught on cam­era by kids

The Progress-Index Weekend - - LIFESTYLES - By Karin Brulliard The Wash­ing­ton Post [PHOTO COUR­TESY OF EMAMMAL]

School­yards teem with chil­dren by day. But what comes around when class is not in ses­sion?

Thou­sands of kids around the world have been ask­ing that ques­tion for four years - and us­ing cam­era traps to get some wild an­swers. In cen­tral In­dia, stu­dents learned, tigers and en­dan­gered wild dogs called dholes tour their school grounds. In cen­tral Kenya, the rarely-seen jaguarundi cat hunts on school prop­erty.

The im­ages were cap­tured in four coun­tries by stu­dents ages 9 to 14 and their teach­ers, all par­tic­i­pants in a study run out of the North Carolina Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral Sciences and North Carolina State Univer­sity. And the wildlife they doc­u­mented stunned even the re­searchers who’d armed them with the cam­eras.

“I was ini­tially wor­ried we’d just get stray cats and dogs,” said Stephanie Schut­tler, a re­search as­so­ciate at the mu­seum

A tiger on the grounds of a school near Pench Na­tional Park in In­dia, where tigers are known to live. A cam­era trap placed by stu­dents and teach­ers at the school doc­u­mented at least six tigers.

and the lead au­thor of a new pa­per on the study. “So we were re­ally shocked by the di­ver­sity.”

The col­lec­tion of im­ages - taken in Ma­ha­rash­tra state in In­dia, across Laikipia County in Kenya, out­side the Mex­i­can city of Guadala­jara and across North Carolina - fea­tures 83 mam­mal species, 15 of which are en­dan­gered. The im­ages are be­ing stored in a Smith­so­nian repos­i­tory.

For the sci­en­tists, it amounted to proof that child “cit­i­zen sci­en­tists” can pro­duce data that is use­ful to re­searchers, Schut­tler said, and that wild an­i­mals roam all sorts of de­vel­oped habi­tat.

“A lot of sci­en­tists don’t study an­i­mals out­side parks, but we re­ally need to,” Schut­tler said. “Peo­ple live in be­tween, and we’re go­ing to have to un­der­stand how these an­i­mals are us­ing these spa­ces.”

For the kids, the study has been en­gag­ing, not to men­tion sus­pense­ful - but in a good way. The pa­per de­scribes stu­dents at one North Carolina school who were “so ex­cited to check the cam­era traps that they counted down the days and ‘screamed’ with ex­cite­ment when they viewed the im­ages of the an­i­mals they had cap­tured.”

“They be­came very proud of their data,” Schut­tler said. “Most of these an­i­mals, peo­ple would never see.”

[PHOTO COUR­TESY OF EMAMMAL]

A black bear wan­ders the prop­erty of a school in Asheville, N.C.

[PHOTO COUR­TESY OF EMAMMAL]

An en­dan­gered Grevy’s ze­bra grazes near a school in Kenya.

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