'Trophy' cell phone pictures lead to arrests of tiger poachers

mongabay.com
July 14, 2011



tiger poachers
Some of the cell phone images are “trophy” pictures, with poachers posing above a dead tiger. The tiger from the cell phone images was then identified as the same tiger captured by a camera trap image the year before, a method made possible by the unique stripe patterns possessed by each individual animal. The image adds to the evidence against the poachers. Image and caption courtesy of WCS Thailand Program

Two poachers were arrested in Thailand after a cell phone they left behind in the forest provided evidence of tiger poaching, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

WCS explains:
    A few weeks ago, park rangers patrolling the forests came face to face with a group of poachers, an encounter that led to gunfire. The poachers soon fled, retreating back into the forest and leaving some of their belongings behind. One of the items was a cell phone filled with images that would help government officials and park rangers build a case against the illegal hunters. The rangers also found other evidence of poaching, including animal body parts and insecticides that are sometimes used to poison tigers.

    Eventually, two poachers were arrested. A third poacher was tracked to his home, but was able to escape the authorities before being apprehended. Interestingly, the cell phone images proved invaluable in disproving the accounts of the captured poachers. When confronted with “trophy” images of themselves posing over a dead tiger, the suspects claimed the big cat was poached in Myanmar in 2003. According to WCS Thailand staff, however, the tiger (identified by its unique stripe patterns) was a well-known male tiger that researchers had tracked with camera traps in Thailand for at least three years between 2008-2011. The database of tiger images not only helps researchers understand the ecological needs of tigers, but also gives law enforcement an important resource in successfully prosecuting illegal hunters. The cell phone images also contained evidence that the poachers were involved in the elephant ivory trade as well.
WCS says the suspects may have killed as many as ten tigers in the region and are involved in an organized crime ring.

Tigers are increasingly endangered due to habitat destruction, loss of prey, and poaching for the Traditional Chinese Medicine market. Scientists estimate some 3,500 tigers remain in the wild, down from around 100,000 a century ago. Three of the nine tiger subspecies went extinct during that period.












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mongabay.com (July 14, 2011).

'Trophy' cell phone pictures lead to arrests of tiger poachers.

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0714-wcs_tiger_poaching_camera.html