Tiger stripes used to identify poached pelts

March 17th, 2009 - 5:20 pm ICT by ANI  

Sydney, March 17 (ANI): Scientists have developed a new computer-driven technique that makes use of a code hidden in tiger stripes to help them identify poached pelts of the endangered animals.

Poachers and illegal traders have pushed many tiger species to the brink of extinction, slaughtering them for their coveted pelts.

But each tigers markings are unique, like a fingerprint.

Now, according to a report by ABC News, a new computer-driven technique can match images of live animals with illegally traded skins, identifying when and where poachers made their kills.

The system, developed by Lex Hiby of Conservation Research Limited, uses automated camera traps to do most of the image collecting.

Computer software melds several pictures into a three-dimensional map of an animals markings on both sides, 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 on the black market.

Out of a collection of between 264 and 298 tigers with known stripe patterns in the Nagarhole and Bandipur tiger reserves in India, the program correctly matched 95 percent of images that belonged to the same animal.

In a study of six images taken from three skins between 2006 and 2008, the program matched five to pictures of live tigers.

In the sixth image, the right flank of the skin was folded, preventing a strong match.

If copies of camera trap images were accumulated in a central database, an image of a skin that had been taken from one of the tigers in that database could be traced within a few minutes to where and when the living animal was last recorded, according to the authors. (ANI)

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