The Internet's love affair with cat videos is no secret, and this rare footage of endangered big-cat species in the wild brings our obsession to a whole new level. 


We've featured similarly amazing footage of rare tigers in the past, but the video below showcases species we've never heard of before. In fact, according to the video, some of the big cats featured below have never even been filmed, so to see them in their natural habitat is quite a rare treat.
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Along with tigers, the video allows us insight into the lives of such extraordinary creatures as Amur leopards, Andean mountain cats, and the elusive Bornean bay cat (pictured above), among others. Not only are all these majestic cats breathtaking to behold, but they have something much more serious in common. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, big cats are among the most threatened species and a testament to the importance of wildlife conservation efforts. Their numbers are dwindling, but advances in technology might be big cats' saving grace.

This amazing footage wouldn't exist without the help of camera traps. These devices are motion- and heat-activated, turning on when a passive infrared detector senses activity within its range. Because of the way they function, camera traps can be left unattended in the wild for weeks at a time, then collected later for the footage to be reviewed. As such, camera traps are ideal for capturing images and videos in remote locations around the clock. The concept behind this practice has been around for years (the video traces the first recorded use of a camera trap to Henry R. Carey's study, "Camera-Trapping: A Novel Device for Wild Animal Photography," published in a 1926 edition of the Journal Of Mammalogy), but has been steadily improving thanks to advances in technology. Rather than being triggered with trip wire and capturing still images with strong flashes and loud noises, modern camera traps are much more stealthy in filming wild animals.

In addition to providing awe-inspiring wild animal pictures and videos for our viewing pleasure, camera traps serve a much more important purpose for nature preservation and conservation projects. The data that camera traps collect allows researchers to study elusive species without coming into contact with them or frightening them away. According to the video, researchers in the 1990s used the footage they collected as a way to monitor population size and density for a wide variety of animals previously deemed too difficult to study. Camera traps allow scientists to estimate these figures with an upgraded "capture and recapture" method of data collection without actually having to physically capture or tag any animals. 

But the value of camera traps extends beyond the realm of scientific research. Yale Environment 360 (an online publication from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies) notes that the information from these devices is invaluable in conservation efforts. Besides observing animal populations, camera traps function as an effective way to monitor illegal activities such as poaching and deforestation in protected areas. Further, the article is optimistic about camera traps as a means to "raise conservation awareness worldwide, with NGOs embracing the tool as a powerful way of reaching out to the public through You Tube, the Internet, and social networking sites." By educating the general public about these important conservation projects, threatened and endangered species might stand a chance against extinction.

Watch this amazing and informative footage in the video below, and be sure to share your thoughts with us in the comments section. Which of these rare and majestic big cats is your favorite?