People can’t ride on the backs of whales, turtles, penguins or bears and experience what it’s like to live like an animal for a day. But, the Crittercam has made it possible for people to see – and hear – how certain animals eat, sleep, speak and survive.
“National Geographic Crittercam: The World Through Animal Eyes,” is on display at Zoo Miami’s Dr. Wilde’s World until May 5. This 6,000 square-foot traveling exhibit is broken up into several sections where visitors can learn more about various land and water animals such as sharks, sea turtles, seals, bears, whales, lions, penguins and domestic cats.
Ron Magill, communications manager at Zoo Miami, said the exhibit gives individuals an opportunity to understand how animals live from a different perspective.
“It opens up a whole other world from an animal’s point of view,” he said. “It is a window to a world that most people don’t get to see.”
The Crittercam is a small, customized video camera with a built-in hydrophone that latches on to animals and records what they do for a certain period of time. The shortest deployment has been hours. The longest deployment has been three months.
Greg Marshall, the inventor of the Crittercam, said the idea first came about when he went diving in Belize in 1986 and had an encounter with a shark that had a large remora suckled onto its belly.
“It really occurred to me at that moment that if I could transform that remora into a video, we could learn amazing things about shark behavior we would otherwise not be able to know,” he said. “Ever since that day, I’ve been trying to make it happen and have had success.”
Since then, the Crittercam has been experimented on more than just sharks. Marshall’s invention was not known as the Crittercam until 1993 when National Geographic made a documentary about his research project and coined it with the name.
“The Crittercam is one of those tools that gives us the amazing way of seeing things we’ve never imagined before right here in our own planet,” Marshall said. “It can ride along with animals into their world without disturbing their natural behavior, which is kind of key to all this.”
Though the Crittercam’s sole purpose is to collect data, the Crittercam exhibit displays the data in a way that people can understand.
Children – and adults – are able to walk through the exhibit and see: Telephones at the whale station that let people hear the way whales sound when they communicate, a replica of an 18-foot shark, and a graphic video of a lion eating a zebra.
“Hopefully we connect with people and kids of all ages to be inspired by these animals and the fact that we can share this planet with them,” Marshall said. “We give them a chance into the future.”