Seocho-Gu, Seoul, Korea

Kim Gitae, Citizen Scientist

A green spot in a 10 million metropolis: that’s where Triggered by Motion’s camera was installed. For one whole year, it filmed a neighbourhood park on the outskirts of a residential area in Seoul. Although the park itself consists of only a small hill, it is part of a vast mountainous terrain stretching from the outskirts of Seoul to the southern part of Gyeonggi-do, connecting the surrounding mountains and mountain roads. Around the area where the camera trap is installed, there are sports parks and walking trails used by residents.

The camera was installed by Seoul-based videographer Gitae Kim. Except for cats or pigeons, Gitae had never before seen a wild animal in his city, and he didn’t expect to record any other species in this urban area. It surprised him that the camera captured Water deer (hydropotes inermis) quite frequently, as well as some Weasels (Mustela siberica) and even Raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides).

Perhaps the most interesting animal that was recorded by the camera trap is also the most ordinary one: the cat (Felis catus). The number of stray cats in Seoul and other major Korean cities is increasing, perhaps due to the rising popularity of pet culture in South Korea. In recent years, stray cats have received affirmative attention from cat enthusiasts, often called «cat moms», who come and look after them.

The Government of Seoul picked up the cat mom’s caring actions a while ago and initiated a series of initiatives that aim at paying attention to and looking after stray cats, viewing them as nonhuman residents of Seoul. These measures include not just neutering but also subsidising cat-mom groups, offering winter shelters for cats, organising campaigns to raise awareness for stray cats, and regular feeding events.

The City Government’s efforts mark a societal change in the attitudes toward stray cats that in turn has probably affected their number. This partly explains their frequent appearance in the video data.

The footage Gitae collected over the course of a year illustrates the city as a more-than-human space where humans and non-human beings live together. It has also changed Gitaes perspective on his city. In the middle of the bleak metropolis, he realized that he hadn’t paid much attention to the wildlife environment around him.

Now he sees his neighbourhood park with different eyes.