Inside Africa

Meet the paparazzo of the animal kingdom

CNN  — 

Ever wondered what wild animals get up to at night?

Thanks to a set of beautifully revealing nocturnal photographs, you can find out.

Taken by wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas in the Zambezi Region of Namibia, the pictures reveal the private lives of lions, zebras and wildebeest, congregating around waterholes and crossing the bush unaware they’re being watched.

They were commissioned by the WWF in order to highlight the beauty of the region’s creatures, and encourage their protection. However, the timid nature of the animals made the task harder than expected.

“In most places in Africa, wildlife is much easier to photograph. (The animals) would allow you to photograph them with a hand-held camera,” says Burrard-Lucas, who has spent the last five years documenting animals across the continent.

But the Zambezi Region is densely populated, with settlements and livestock putting humans and animals at close quarters.

“The wildlife lives near communities, they’re very shy and elusive and because of that many creatures move at night. As soon as they would sense me coming they would run away,” says Burrard-Lucas.

The animal paparazzo

So his solution was to use a camera trap – a high-quality stationary DSLR camera which he carefully positioned along animal trails and by watering holes. At night, wildlife movements would trigger the sensors, and the camera would automatically snap pictures which Burrard-Lucas would sort through the next morning. The resulting images captured the vigor of wild animals’ natural behavior, without the intrusion of a lens pointed in their direction.

In order to identify the best spots to set his cameras up Burrard-Lucas consulted Lise Hanssen, a conservationist who studies carnivores and works to find ways for human and animals to live together.

“The timing of my trip coincided with the dry season, so wherever you are the animals have to come up for water,” Burrard-Lucas says.

“It was exciting to see so many different species by the watering hole, it was almost like a festive atmosphere,” he adds.

To catch a predator

Lions proved to be the most elusive to catch – in the three months Burrard-Lucas’s camera traps were operating they were captured only twice.

“They were particularly challenging. They’re very secretive and shy, but it was very satisfying to get images of them,” says Burrard-Lucas.

The photographer also took videos to test if the animals were alarmed by the cameras, but says that they didn’t seem to notice them. He explains this could be due to the fact he used a relatively low-powered flash which is comparable to beams of lightning, something animals would be familiar with.

Burrard-Lucas also steered clear of taking quick multiple shots to avoid the clicking noise, which could have alarmed the wildlife.

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“Images have the power to connect a viewer with a subject in a way that is hard to achieve through written words and statistics,” he says. “I hope that these images, in combination with WWF’s efforts and Lise’s valuable research, can help inspire conservation action in this important region,” Burrard-Lucas adds.