Even if you’re more of a dog person, a cute kitty close-up brightens any day. In this case, a small wild cat called a margay investigates a camera set up by Hoja Nueva, a wildlife research and rescue center in Peru. In a biodiversity hotspot with more than 100 different mammals and 700 species of birds, their infrared and motion sensor cameras capture many adorable and insightful behaviors. The center’s Instagram feed is full of cute rainforest animals and how they spend their lazy days and warm, tropical nights.
Hoja Nueva‘s founder Samantha Zwicker is an ecologist dedicated to rescuing native critters and releasing them back into the wild. She has a team of biologists, veterinarians, and interns to help run the center. They care for more than just cats, including species like the baby tapir below. Her name is Eywa, after the Mother Nature-like deity in Avatar. And she’s not the only pop culture-inspired critter. There’s also Keanu, a rescued baby ocelot, and Loki, a mischievous margay.
Zwicker and her team set up grids of the cameras, sometimes as many as 120 at a time. The resulting videos, apart from being cute, provide information about how many animals live there and how much territory they cover. The researchers can tell most animals apart based on their markings. They’re in the process of publishing their findings.
The red brocket deer and her calf in the above video will be relatable to anyone who’s ever had a child in tow while doing chores or running errands. And the squirrel monkeys below seem to ham it up for the cameras.
“It’s a very noninvasive way to study wild animals,” says Zwicker. “You get this secret view into their lives. It’s amazing for research, but it’s also just amazing to be able to feel like you’re a part of this world in a very natural way.”
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.