Software now tracks tigers in 3-D

March 19th, 2009 - 4:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 19 (IANS) A new software will allow tiger researchers to promptly identify individual animals by creating a 3-D model using photos taken by remote cameras, and speed up conservation efforts.
The new software, developed by Conservation Research Ltd., creates a 3-D model from scanned photos using algorithms similar to fingerprint-matching software used by criminologists.

The study authors include Lex Hiby of Conservation Research, Phil Lovell of the Gatty Marine Lab’s Sea Mammal Research Unit, and tiger expert Ullas Karanth of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), among others.

Researchers currently calculate tiger populations by painstakingly reviewing hundreds of photos of animals caught by camera “traps” and then matching their individual stripe patterns, which are unique to each animal.

Using a formula developed by Karanth, researchers accurately estimate local populations by how many times individual tigers are “recaptured” by the camera trap technique.

The new software could help researchers to rapidly identify animals, which in turn could speed up tiger conservation efforts.

“This new software will make it much easier for conservationists to identify individual tigers and estimate populations,” said Karanth.

“The fundamentals of tiger conservation are knowing how many tigers live in a study area before you can start to measure success,” he said, according to a release of Conservation Research.

The study’s authors found that the software, was up to 95 percent accurate in matching tigers from scanned photos. Researches were also able to use the software to identify the origin of confiscated tiger skins based on solely on photos.

These findings have been described in Biology Letters.

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