One of three Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) cubs photographed
following their mother, using digital camera technology.
The use of digital Panthera camera traps, new to us this year, has opened new possibilities for our work studying tigers and leopards in SW Primorye. Since using these new cameras we have documented tiger and leopard cubs, and recorded the continued survival of a known leopard. Furthermore, with sensitive motion detectors and fast camera speeds we have fantastic photos of a variety of fast-moving animals rarely captured before; such as the Siberian weasel, Far-Eastern wildcat, Manchurian hare and an array of bird species.
Prior to this year we have relied upon older camera traps with film cameras. Not only did we have the extra expense of buying and developing film, but there was a delay waiting for the photos. However, with digital technology we are able to download high quality images within minutes, at no extra cost. Consequently we always have digital cameras ready to deploy if we find anything of interest. In December, when we found tracks of a tigress and cubs leading to what looked like a den, we set up the Panthera cameras to capture two cubs emerging from that site. In January when our team found a fresh kill made by a leopard, a deployed camera allowed us to document that female leopard 27 (i.e. the 27th leopard we have photographed over the 9 years of our study) spent one hour feeding on a sika deer. In February, we set up a camera after following tracks of a female leopard to a cliffy hillside, and were thrilled to find just two days later a photo of a tiny leopard cub.
A brown bear with two cubs
In addition, these digital Panthera camera traps have a shortened “recovery time” (the time it takes a camera to be ready to take a second photo after the first). Consequently, we now have a sequence of images where we previously would have just one photo from the film cameras. With the older cameras, if a mother walked by and had her picture taken, by the time the camera was ready to take another picture, her cubs had in most instances already passed by the camera undetected. With the digital cameras we can be confident in capturing photos of cubs walking behind their mother, as we did in February. The same situation applies to a passing herd of deer; by counting the number of deer in our camera traps we can estimate group sizes of ungulates, an important component of estimating abundance of prey.
We are looking forward to capturing more photos of our wildlife and diversifying our studies to improve our understanding the ecology and informing conservation activities for leopards and tigers in the Russian Far East.
- Samantha Earle, the Far Eastern Leopard Project Co-Coordinator
A leaping Manchurian hare (Caprolagus brachyurus)
sets off the motion detector on a camera trap.
Fast moving, a Siberian weaselm (Mustela sibiricus)
dashes past a Panthera camera-trap.
In full view of a digital Panthera camera-trap
a Far-eastern wildcat (Felis euptilura) on the move
Far-eastern wildcat (Felis euptilura)
A bat is detected by the digital cameras
A Golden eagle investigates
the leftovers from a leopard kill.
Two Cinereous, or Eurasian black vultures (Aegypius monachus)
scavenge from the remains of a sika deer leftover from a leopard kill.