A web application powered by a team of enthusiastic naturalists, conservationists, photographers and national park visitors using their cameras, smart phones and videos has been trying to monitor big cats by creating a database of tigers in Indian forests.
Tiger Nation’s new identity software works by using the tiger’s stripe patterns from photos taken each day, alongside camera trap images to log and pictorially map each animal’s movements. Tigernation.org has built a powerful database to store all the details.
“Each tiger has its own unique stripe pattern – like a bar code – often very distinct. This should allow – like fingerprints – to identify all tigers eventually through photography and camera traps,” says Julian Matthews.
The software aims to give an almost “instant” match – and then give the user the life profile of the matched tiger. It’s been developed by top researchers based at the University of Surrey, a leading player in the field of biometrics.
“People can post the pictures of tigers clicked by them on the website and it can be matched with the available database using the software,” he said.
“We are aiming to use the technology to match tiger skins seized by the Indian authorities, alongside partners, like the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) to track down powerful poaching gangs.
“Lots of people are trying it with photos taken in Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh Tiger reserves. It’s still in testing mode – and needs further refining, and has limitations because of the angle of a tigers’ body to the photographer (who can be a pro or a visiting amateur) but many of these will be ironed out and improved as we go forward,” Matthews added.