WWF staff wins BBC Wildlife Camera Trap Photo of the Year

A photograph of two Malayan tigers staring into a camera-trap that was placed inside a Peninsular Malaysia forest in September 2009 has won the grand prize of a global camera-trap photo competition run by BBC Wildlife Magazine, in association with World Land Trust.

The photo of a female tiger and her offspring beat hundreds of other entries to win USD 2,000 as the Overall Winner of the competition, plus an additional USD 1,000 in the Best Animal Portrait category. The winning image is published in the December issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine and features online at www.bbcwildlifemagazine.com

“This photo of a female tiger and her offspring in the same frame is quite rare because the female tiger typically walks in front, followed by her offspring. As camera-traps have a delay between each photo, the female tiger tends to be photo-captured first, while her offspring might be missed altogether,” said Mark Rayan, WWF-Malaysia’s Tiger Monitoring Unit Head.

The competition received more than 700 entries from all over the world. Launched in April this year, the competition aimed to celebrate the extraordinary images of wildlife captured through minimal disturbance to them and their habitat.

The winning photo was taken on 12 Sep 2009 at three o’clock in the afternoon in the Temengor Forest Reserve, an area in the far north of the Malaysian peninsula where selective logging is still being carried out. The tigress, the team discovered, is one of the breeding resident females in the area.

Although Rayan submitted the photo, the camera-trap that snapped the winning photo was actually placed by another member of the project, Christopher Wong.

Rayan said the prize money from the photograph will be used for research.

“The prize money will be used to purchase satellite imagery for a habitat suitability analysis to complement our research, and possibly additional camera-traps to get more amazing tiger photos,” he said.

Because it was unique, the photo created quite a stir among WWF staff and local conservation partners when it was first shown around, and that was the main reason Rayan said he entered it in the competition.

WWF-Malaysia has been working in one of Malaysia’s priority areas for tiger conservation, the Belum-Temengor forest complex since 2007. WWF’s Wildlife Monitoring Unit is currently conducting research on tigers and their prey to determine their conservation status, and to provide management recommendations to ensure the long term survival of tigers in the area.
According to Rayan, it is currently thought that the offspring of this female have already dispersed to establish their own territory. “This is based on the last dozen photographs taken of these individuals in the last two months of our camera-trapping assessments, where the female tiger and her offspring were no longer photographed together.”

Rayan, who is also representing WWF-Malaysia at the Youth Tiger Summit in Vladivostok this month, says that winning the competition has boosted the team’s spirits in conducting research in the dense jungles of Malaysia.

The prize was announced before the International Tiger Forum, also know as the Tiger Summit, hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and due to take place in St. Petersburg, Russia from November 21 to November 24, 2010.

The Tiger Forum will be held concurrently with the Youth Summit. The Forum seeks to bring together the 13 countries that still have wild tigers, as well as other countries and international partners to sign a pledge on cooperation for tiger conservation, in addition to launching a global tiger recovery programme that seeks to double the big cat’s numbers in the wild by 2022.