Conservation and people: towards an ethical code of conduct for the use of camera traps in wildlife research.
Camera trapping is a widely employed tool in wildlife research, used to estimate animal abundances, understand animal movement, assess species richness and understand animal behaviour. In addition to images of wild animals, research cameras often record human images, inadvertently capturing behaviours ranging from innocuous actions to potentially serious crimes. With the increasing use of camera traps, there is an urgent need to reflect on how researchers should deal with human images caught on cameras. On the one hand, it is important to respect the privacy of individuals caught on cameras, while, on the other hand, there is a larger public duty to report illegal activity. This creates ethical dilemmas for researchers. Here, based on our camera-trap research on snow leopards Panthera uncia, we outline a general code of conduct to help improve the practice of camera trap based research and help researchers better navigate the ethical-legal tightrope of this important research tool.