Each April for six consecutive years, Guilherme Braga Ferreira and three other researchers set out on a half-year journey, methodically installing remote camera traps across 386 square miles of the Brazilian Cerrado savanna. Their goal: to photograph maned wolves, giant anteaters, pumas, tapirs and other Neotropical mammals, residents of the world’s most biodiverse grasslands. The data would show where these animals lived and reveal how well they survived when living near humans.
Ferreira and his team — ecologists from Instituto Biotrópicos, a Brazilian conservation nonprofit — deployed up to 70 cameras in carefully positioned arrays, concentrated at nine southeast Cerrado locations. The researchers split their surveillance between fully protected state and national parks and lesser-protected “mixed-use” areas where people live, ranch and farm. Then they counted the number of mammals living in each and ran the data through a computer model.