Don't look too surprised, giant kitty — you're live on candid camera trap! Zoologists and ecologists these days use "camera traps," or motion-activated cameras hidden in natural habitats, to observe wildlife without harming them. The resulting pictures are often heartbreakingly gorgeous, occasionally goofy, and reveal animals we never knew existed.
Top image: An African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) amazed by a camera trap in Kenya, 2011. via National Geographic.
A Borneo bay cat (Pardofelis badia), captured in November 2013.
Only 2,500 of them are thought to exist on Borneo, the third largest island in the world. These rarely spotten animals were first photographed in 2003.
Five Wild Cat Species Photographed in Indonesia, 2013
An African golden cat (Profelis aurata) from Uganda's Kibale National Park, November 2013
A female Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) with two cubs in the Wangqing Nature Reserve, China, November 2013
(via National Geographic)
Rare badgers, mongooses, genets and civets, sighted in October 2013 in Gabon.
A marsh mongoose
(via National Geographic)
Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) in Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, Indonesia, October 2013.
A saola (the Asian unicorn, Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) in one of the first sightings in 15 years, taken by a camera trap set by WWF and the Vietnamese government's Forest Protection Department, September 2013
The first glimpse of the little-known saola was only seen in 1992 in Vũ Quang Nature Reserve.
A shy Brocket deer in Trinidad, September 2013
Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) caught on a camera in the first of Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park, Java, Indonesia, May 2013
A Roach's Mouse-tailed Dormuse (Myomimus roach) on a wild pear in Edirne, Turkey, the Overall Winner and the Winner of New Discoveries Category on the BBC Wildlife Magazine Camera-trap Photo of the Year Competition, 2013
(via World Land Trust)
A wild tiger chasing a porcupine in the Indian Terai, April 2013
An oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus), photographed in Bolivia's Madidi National park, July 2012
A female Bengal Tiger carrying a one-month-old cub, taken in the Kosi River Corridor, India, November 2011
The Sundaland clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), filmed for the first time in Sumatra, Indonesia, 2011.
It was classified as a separate species in 2006. Its existence was known since the early 19th century, but the scientists believed that it's only a subspecies of the mainland clouded leopard.
A Gaur (Indian bison, Bos frontal is), the tallest species of wild cattle, listed as vulnerable since 1986, photographed Khao Yai National Park, Thailand, 2004
(via Smithsonian Wild)
And now . . . a deer fleeing a flying squirrel!
(via Hailey Lehrer)