Each tiger’s stripes tell a unique tale | india | Hindustan Times
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Each tiger’s stripes tell a unique tale

Stripe patterns on tigers have now provided scientists a code to identify when and where poachers made their kills, with a help of a new computer software, said a study published in the British journal Biology Letters. Chetan Chauhan reports.

india Updated: Mar 30, 2009 01:33 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Stripe patterns on tigers have now provided scientists a code to identify when and where poachers made their kills, with a help of a new computer software, said a study published in the latest edition of British journal Biology Letters.

UK-based Conservation Research Limited and Bangalore-based World Conservation Society (WCS) had discovered a code hidden in tigers’ stripes, which is unique to each animal, just like fingerprints and DNA are to humans.

This code can help wildlife investigators track skins recovered from the poachers to the forests where the killings were made. “Now with the help of technology, we can use it against poachers as forensic evidence,” said Fayaz Khudsar, a Delhi-based wildlife scientist.

In this new system, images of the big cats are taken by automated camera traps. The pictures are then fed into a computer, which melds several pictures into a three-dimensional map of an animal’s markings from the neck to the base of the tail.

The map is digitally flattened until it resembles a tiger skin, which can be compared to pictures of skins being traded in the black market, said the research paper.

“If copies of camera trap images were accumulated in a central database, an image taken from a tiger in that database could be traced within a few minutes to where and when the living animal was last recorded,” the authors wrote in a paper published this week in Biology Letters.

“Catching maximum number of animals on camera traps is important for conservation and protecting tigers,” K. Ullas Karanth, senior conservation scientist at WCS told HT. In India, about 40-50 per cent of estimated 1,411 tigers are captured in cameras.