In WWF's Tigers Alive! Project camera traps are essential in gaining information on tiger ecology, which can then help to provide solutions to managing their habitat in the future.
Camera-trapping is an especially suitable method for identifying tigers because the stripe patterns on these predominantly nocturnal mammals are unique, just as a human's individuality is marked by his or her unique pattern of fingerprints. When individual tigers can be identified, it is possible to estimate the population size of these animals within the area being studied.
Camera traps also track the activity patterns of tigers, leopards and their prey. Based on these behavioural patterns, researchers can develop recommendations on reducing conflicts between tigers and the local human population. For example, a farmer in Jeli, Kelantan, can use this information to assist in managing his cattle. During peak activity hours when tigers are hungrily roaming for prey, he can keep his cattle in a protected enclosure, to minimise tiger attacks on them.
Although camera-trapping is an effective way of monitoring abundances of tigers and providing a basic overview of the wildlife in the study area, WWF-Malaysia researchers are hoping to expand their monitoring methods using video-trapping and telemetry; fitting animals with instruments such as radio or satellite transmitters in order to obtain ecological information such as movement patterns, home range and habitat use of these animals. Even though relatively expensive, satellite telemetry has been used previously in places such as East Malaysia, India, Cambodia, Kenya and Mozambique to track the movement of elephants and other wildlife that occupy large areas, especially those that might travel across international borders. This was done by fitting the animals with GPS or satellite collars.
WWF has confirmed at least 13 rhinos remain on Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sabah.
They are regarded as a subspecies of the Sumatran rhinoceros, which means they have different physical characteristics to the animals found in Sumatra (Indonesia) and Peninsular Malaysia. The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the world’s most critically endangered species, with a total global population of fewer than 300. On Borneo, there have been no confirmed reports of the species, apart from those in Sabah, for almost 20 years, leading experts to fear that rhinos may now be extinct on the rest of the island.
The main threats to the last rhinos on Borneo are poaching – its horn and virtually all of its body parts are valuable on the black market – and loss of its forested habitat due to land conversion for other uses such as agriculture.
Photos and video footage can determine the condition of rhinos, help identify individual animals and show how they behave in the wild.
Watch the video of the Borneo rhino caught on film
Borneo rhino caught on film. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.