CSI Wildlife, Episode 3: Tiger Stripes Used to ID Poached Pelts

tiger photo

Photo: Flickr, CC
In This Episode of Crime Scene Investigation: Wildlife...
In the first episode of CSI Wildlife, we saw how DNA forensics could be used to prevent elephant poaching. In the second one, we saw how DNA forensics could be used to track whale meat and shark fins from animals that were killed illegally (mostly in Asia). In this episode, we leave DNA analysis in favor of computer-assisted pattern-matching that can be used to identify poached tiger pelts. Read on for more details.
tiger photo

Photo: Flickr, CC
Tiger Stripes are Like Fingerprints
From Discovery News:

Photographs of live, wild tigers are hard to come by -- like most big cats, they're notoriously reclusive. With a new system developed by Lex Hiby of Conservation Research Limited, automated camera traps do most of the image collecting. Then computer software melds several pictures into a three-dimensional map of an animal's 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.

The system has shown an effectiveness of 95% in tests. This kind of software could also be used to identify other types of animals.

We'll have to wait and see how effective it will be against poaching, though. There's always the Catch 22 that when you succeed in deterring and catching some poachers, this reduces the supply and prices go up, encouraging more poachers to join in this little dance that usually ends in extinction...

Via Discovery News
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