17 May

Panthera Camera Trap Catches Poachers

Poacher caught on Camera Trap

Last December marked an exciting milestone for Panthera with the distribution of our new and enhanced camera trap model, which consists of a remarkably energy-efficient camera that snaps photos of passing wildlife in just three-tenths of a second.  Given that wild tigers are very elusive and increasingly rare, these camera traps serve as a particularly valuable research tool that allow Panthera’s scientists to identify individual tigers using their unique stripe patterns and learn more about the abundance, movements and behaviors of these endangered big cats. 

Orang National Park in Assam, India was one of the first sites in which 48 of these camera traps were deployed.  Not far from India’s Kaziranga National Park, which is home to the world’s highest density of tigers, Orang maintains a small but thriving tiger population in its 78km2 area.  Panthera recently partnered with Aaranyak – a well-established regional wildlife conservation organization – to use these camera traps to learn more about Orang’s tiger population, which could represent an important source population.

The killing of tigers due to conflict and poaching are the biggest threats to tigers in Orang National Park, and across their range.  The 60-70 rhinos that live in Orang are also targeted by poachers, particularly for their horns.  Just weeks ago, after learning of a poached rhino near one of the local anti-poaching camps, Aaranyak’s field staff checked their camera traps in the area in hopes of unraveling any clues about the incident.

Park rangers stand over a rhinoceros killed for its horn in India’s Kaziranga National Park, not far away from Orang National Park.

The team was surprised to find that just four days prior to the rhino being poached, a set of camera trap images had been taken of three people walking down a park road armed with .303 rifles.  Amazingly, the clarity of the photos allowed two of these individuals to be identified as poachers from a village on the eastern border of the park. 

Presuming that the individuals photographed by the camera traps may have been involved in the rhino poaching incident, Aaranyak’s field team acted swiftly and notified the management of Orang Park of the evidence.  Soon after, the officials traveled to communities bordering the Park to hang posters of the photos and announced a Rs.25,000 reward (equivalent to nearly US $550) for information leading to the identification and arrest of the individuals caught on camera.Hours later, the identities of these individuals were revealed by members of a local community, which resulted in the two poachers surrendering themselves to local police. The third poacher has since fled the area.

Despite the loss of one of Orang’s rare rhinos, this turn of events is an incredible example of how collaboration between wildlife conservation organizations and local governments can help protect the wildlife of Orang National Park.  This incident also goes to show that while Panthera’s new camera traps have been designed to help monitor and understand more about wild cats, they can also serve as a surprisingly effective enforcement tool that helps protect rare species. Panthera  congratulates the Aaranyak field staff and the Orang National Park officers who helped bring these poachers to justice.

Additional Information

Learn more about the Tigers Forever program.

Learn more about Aaranyak and follow them on Facebook.

Read The New York Times Green Blog about Panthera’s Camera Traps – A Stealth Camera that Captures Big Cats.

See award-winning photos of the frontlines of tiger conservation taken by Panthera Media Director Steve Winter in India’s Kaziranga National Park, which borders Orang National Park. 

Read about Panthera’s role in the newly-created International Tiger Advisory Group.

Read Panthera's Statement Congratulating WWF on New Images of Sumatran Tigers

Photo 1: A male tiger walking down a path in India’s Orang National Park.
Photo 2: Another male tiger walking down the same path, just minutes before two poachers are photographed walking along this path in the opposite direction.
Photo 3: A poacher out on the hunt is captured by Panthera’s camera trap. This image was used to identify and apprehend this individual.
Photo 4: Two poachers, unable to identify where the quick flash from the camera trap came from, in confusion check their flashlights by shining them onto their hands, and are photographed for the second time. This image was also used to identify and apprehend these two poachers.