Top Panel





Home :: News :: 11032009
Poached skins matched to tigers



BBC NEWS, 11 March 2009
Victoria Gill, Science reporter

A new piece of software is able to identify individual tigers by the unique stripe patterns on their coats.

This tool, the developers say, will make it easier to estimate tiger populations and aid conservation efforts.

It is also able to match skins sold on the black market to photographs of the animals taken using camera traps.

The team of scientists based in the UK and India report its invention in the journal Biology Letters.

The program was based on software originally designed to scan the markings of grey seals and identify them from photographs.

The researchers adapted this for tiger stripes, and combined it with a 3D map of the surface of a tiger's body.

This enabled them effectively to unwrap the pattern of stripes from an image of a live animal and match it to picture of the flat skin.

Dr Ullas Karanth, a researcher from the Wildlife Conservation Society India Program, worked on the project with the UK-based company Conservation Research.

Shooting Tigers

"Tigers are very secretive animals and it is a major challenge to estimate their numbers," Dr Karanth explained.

Over a decade ago, he came up with the idea of using camera traps - hidden cameras operated by trip wires - to monitor tiger populations.

“Until camera trapping is an ongoing process, the usefulness of this amazing software will be limited ”
Belinda Wright, Wildlife Protection Society of India

Since then researchers have used a combination of this automated photography - and tagging and tracking the animals - to monitor their numbers.

But each new photograph of a tiger had to be compared with every animal in a database of images. It is a laborious process, Dr Karanth says.

"No piece of software is as good at discerning shapes as the human brain, but we can use this to shortlist the most likely matches, and then eyeball the photos in that shortlist," Dr Karanth told BBC News. "It's a very powerful tool."

While they were testing the software, Dr Karanth and his colleagues found images of three tigers that, it turned out, had later been killed by poachers.
This inspired the designers to build in a forensic tool that could be used to trace the origin of any skin to a photograph of the tiger.

They also adapted it for other species with unique markings, including leopards, zebras and salamanders.

More needed

Belinda Wright is executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, an organisation that investigates every tiger death in the country.

She says simplifying the process of identifying tigers from camera trap images would be "very beneficial" to conservation research.

But, she warned, opportunities to find the origin of a confiscated tiger skin are rare.

"Skins are often seized in very remote locations, and we often don't get decent photographs of them," Ms Wright explained.

Further, camera trapping is not yet carried out continuously in all of the areas throughout India where tigers live.

This will be necessary, she says, to maintain a census of the tiger population. "Until camera trapping is a regular and ongoing process," said Ms Wright, "the usefulness of this amazing software will be limited."


newslink


 

 

  Untitled Document
 Search:





NGO STATEMENTS & CAMPAIGNS

 Round 2: Tiger Temple Takedown


Previous



Vacancy Announcement




TIGER NEWS


 Tiger poacher snared after 15-yr hunt, 20th  Oct., 2016

Barring China, other member countries of CITES unanimous on curbing tiger farming for trade, 6th  Oct., 2016

TIGER DEATHS IN 2017
 Mortality                 73
 Poaching &             
 Seizures                  34
___________________
       Total                  107


TIGER DEATHS IN 2016
 Mortality                  82
 Poaching &              50
 Seizures                   
___________________
       Total                  132


TIGER POACHING 1994-2016

WILDLIFE NEWS


A jumbo nightmare 21st  Oct., 2016

How 1,200 trains running through India’s protected areas pose grave danger to its sensitive wildlife 12th  Oct., 2016


LEOPARD DEATHS IN 2017
 Mortality                249
 Poaching &            152
 Seizures             
___________________
       Total                  401



LEOPARD DEATHS IN 2016
 Mortality                 282
 Poaching &             154
 Seizures             
___________________
       Total                  436
     

LEOPARD POACHING 1994-2016


TIGER RESERVES
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve Map 

Bandhavgarh


 
Untitled Document
  About us | ProjectsNewsThe TigerDonations | How To Help Links| Publications | Crime MapsFAQsContact Us

Wildlife Protection Society of India. All material is protected by law.