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Indochinese Tiger: How I capture tigers on film and digital

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 posted by Bruce 1:03 PM

“This is an old post but I thought it would be good to re-cap my work over 20 years with the tiger”

Notes from the field: The wizardry of modern technology

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Tiger posing in a waterhole in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand…!

I arrived in Thailand in 1964 and took an immediate liking to the wildlife and forests of the Kingdom. Since then I have consistently visited many wilderness areas, and I can say the tiger is the most difficult of all the Asian creatures to see or photograph. I have only seen two tigers in all those years although many have been seen on my camera traps. Also, I have come upon many tracks left by the big cats. These magnificent carnivores are now rare and hence, very difficult to capture on film and/or digital. However, the wizardry of modern technology has given me an edge.

indochinese tiger male - Canon 600D

Male tiger camera trapped in the Western Forest Complex

My first sighting of a tiger was in Sai Yok National Park in Kanchanburi province along the western border with Burma more than 15 years ago, and my second in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Santuary in Uthai Thani province just last year. Western Thailand is probably the best place where tigers can be seen in the wild. Luck would have to be the number one element but photo equipment, know-how and location also come into play.

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Tiger camera-trapped at night by the Phetchaburi River in Kaeng Krachan National Park

The first was a fleeting glimpse of tiger deep in the forest of Sai Yok Natonal Park in Western Thailand as I was sitting in a tree blind overlooking a large stream and mineral deposit, waiting for gaur that never came. Early one morning, I heard an animal jumping across the stream behind me. I took a quick look back and saw a sleek cat slide down the opposite bank. I went down at noon and looked at the tracks left neatly in the sand but quickly went back up. It was a close encounter with a real wild animal capable of taking man down in a split second. As I was up in a tree, I assured myself I would be safe.

Male tiger with collar in HKK, Western Forest Complex, Thailand

A collard tiger in the Western Forest Complex camera trapped on a forest road

After that, the urge to capture a tiger on film became an obsession and I finally decided to build my own camera-traps. I had the basic machining skills acquired after almost two decades of working as a rig mechanic in the oilfield, and before that the logging and heavy equipment industry. I have a small machine shop with a milling machine and assorted tools at home in Chiang Mai. I used a commercial camera-trap as the basis for my homemade ‘game or trail cameras’ as they are now called in the U.S. where a big business is flourishing..!

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Tiger camera-trapped during the day by the Phetchaburi River in Kaeng Krachan

Tiger camera trapped along the Phetchaburi River in Kaeng Krachan My first camera-traps used passive infrared sensor boards purchased from ‘Radio Shack’ while I was back on vacation in the States. My close friend Yuthana Anantawala from Chiang Mai was working for Unocal in the Gulf of Thailand as an electrician, and he helped me wire up several ‘point & shoot’ film cameras to the electronic boards. I built the housings out of ‘TIG’ welded aluminum boxes and machined the case flat to incorporate a face-plate attached with machine screws for a tight seal.

Sealing and protecting the delicate electronics of the camera, board and batteries against moisture was the number one priority; silicon sealant forms a gasket to seal the case and is available everywhere, and silica gel (desiccant) in a small plastic bag to absorb any moisture was the trick. The first ones were simple and worked quite well. I tested them out the back of my shop where domestic and feral cats walked on a wall.

Feral cat behind my machine shop

A feral cat walking the wall behind my shop testing a film camera-trap

In mid-2003, I set six camera-traps in Sai Yok along wildlife trails and waterholes. After four months, I finally got my first tiger, and then a second cat a few days later up on a 600-meter ridgeline. It was the beginning of a program to catch the striped cat on film. Other animals caught were elephant, sambar, barking deer, wild dogs, wild pigs, serow and stumped-tailed macaque. I even managed to catch a water monitor on one camera.

Notes from the field: My lucky number eleven.

When you play the dice game ‘craps’, the number eleven is a winner for money, but you loose the dice and the next throw. The following story is about my ‘number eleven’ – two very lucky photographs, but getting them almost cost me my life. It was November 2003 while working in Sai Yok. My team and I had just set a string of camera-traps deep in the interior of the protected area. As we were leaving camp, the cook asked me for a lucky number. I had just lifted my camp chair, which left an impression in the soft dirt like the number eleven, and so I shouted out to the boys that the lucky number was eleven.

Tiger in Sai Yok NP

A male tiger camera trapped with film in Sqai You National Park, Western Thailand

However, just after that, I became ill with the deadly Plasmodium falciparum (cerebral malaria) that almost killed me. The only thing that saved me was a medical procedure practiced here in Thailand for patients with severe malaria called a ‘blood exchange transfusion’. I stayed in the hospital for nine days and it was a slow recovery. I was lucky to survive. I will write a thread about that ordeal one day for Camtrapper and all the dangers of working in a Thai forest.

Some may argue that it was just a coincidence that 11 was recorded on both shots, but I like to believe the ‘spirits of the forest’ had finally answered my prayers. Ever since then, my luck has been a great roller-coaster ride in the exciting field of wildlife photography, publishing three coffee table books in English and Thai. Wild Rivers, my third book project, is just a continuation of a dream I had in Sai Yok more than 20 years ago, but that is another story.

Tiger in Kaeng Krachan NP

A male tiger camera trapped on an old logging road in Kaeng Krachan

In 2004, I moved further south to Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province, Southwest Thailand and began a new program with some generous financial support from World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Thailand) and in cooperation with the Department of National Parks (DNP). A presence/absence program was initiated at two areas in the park.

Tiger in Kaeng Krachan NP

The same tiger as above walking towards the camera

Within a few months, I managed to catch a big male tiger and several leopards on an old logging road about 10 kilometers from the main gate. The other area was along the Phetchaburi River deep in the interior.

Tiger in Kaeng Krachan NP

The same tiger as above taking a real close-up

Over a period of three years, both cat species were caught on film in Kaeng Krachan consistently. The felines were in abundance. Leopards in both black and yellow phase were captured. The tiger and leopard have overlapping territories and hunt during the day and night.

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Tiger named ‘4-spots’ camera-trapped in many areas of Kaeng Krachan

One tiger named ‘4-spots’ was consistently trapped in many areas of the park. I also managed to photograph a fishing cat, a rare occurrence. Other animals trapped were elephant, gaur, sambar, Fea’s muntjac, common muntjac, sun bear, banded linsang and striped palm civet among others like Indian civet, porcupine and fish-owl.

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A first record of a tiger in a mineral deposit in Kaeng Krachan

It was a tremendous experience seeing all these exotic animals thriving in their natural habitat, and I looked forward to scrutinizing every roll of film. But it must be mentioned that there were many failures with equipment and even theft. I lost four cameras in Kaeng Krachan to poachers that probably had their photo taken and scared them. They actually bashed them until they busted open and chopped one out of a banyan type tree root. I dropped the program, as it was a very expensive loss including the cameras, gas, food and labor, plus whatever photos were lost. I do plan on returning to the Phetchaburi River one day but with much more robust camera housings hopefully to prevent further loss.

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A male tiger with a collar camera trapped at night on a forest road in the Western Forest Complex

I then moved to Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Forest Complex-Thailand hoping to put my traps to work in a more tightly protected area. It did not take long to capture tiger and leopard, plus gaur, banteng, tapir, elephant, and many other creatures living in this World Heritage Site. And, I have finally lost two cameras to theft. From time to time, I still set traps in the sanctuary always hoping for a magical sighting of the big cats and other wonderful animals found here.

Tiger male with collar in Huai Kha Khaeng

The same tiger as above but with a Sony DSLR camera on another date

Finally, the ‘digital camera-trap’ age has arrived. In November 2008 armed with a new digital camera-trap, a tiger (above) was caught in a salt lick not far from the main gate in Kaeng Krachan. It was an early morning shot of a mature cat and the first record of a tiger in a mineral deposit in the park. Prior to that, it was always thought the predator hunted around the peripheral of mineral licks that attracted the herbivores.

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A young male tiger crossing over ‘tiger log’ in the Western Forest Complex

Kaeng Krachan and Kui Buri national parks have Thailand’s second best population of tigers and leopards, and both remain some of the top protected areas where they still survive and breed. I have left the Southwest are of Thailand and moved up to the Western Forest Complex.

There are three companies in the United States that specialize in passive infrared boards, and one company that offers active infrared controllers. I have listed web-address at the end of this thread in the event someone has a hankering to build a homemade camera-trap. The websites are very informative but it does require some extensive searching to get good information. Instructive data on modifying cameras and building your own camera-trap is listed.
indochinese tiger female sporting a 'radio collar'

A young female tiger with a collar crossing over ‘tiger log’

It is not easy anymore finding the right secondhand point-n-shoots like Sony, Nikon, Olympus or Pentax digital models at used camera shops or pawnshops anymore. They do float in and out of one place at the very end of Chinatown’s Yawalat Road on the right hand side of the road that sells second hand camera and video stuff. Make sure you thoroughly check the camera out, and even then, it might turn into a dud. The most popular camera for trail units is the Sony S600 digital with a 6-megapixel sensor and a Carl Zeiss lens. They take very good daytime photos and fair pictures at night.

Tiger in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary

A tiger camera trapped and squinting due to the camera flashes (2nd shot)

There is of course no warranty after a camera has been ‘hacked’; the terminology used for a camera wired up to a sensor board. And finally, many cameras do not work; only a few models listed by the board manufactures do. It takes skilled electrician lots of intricate work to get these boards and cameras working properly. I have spent loads of time and money on building camera-traps, but also have collected a large library of images of some very interesting, elusive and endangered animals to compensate the cost.

Notes from the field: “A tiger through the lens, and my lucky number 11”

Indochinese tiger in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, a World Heritage Site situated in central west Thailand. This male cat walked into a mineral deposit for a quick drink as I sat up in a photoblind some thirty meters away from the water hole. Photo taken using a Nikon D700 witha 400mm f2.8 lens in very late afternoon.

A male tiger walking into a waterhole in the Western Forest Complex on Dec. 11, 2009

Indochinese tiger in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, a World Heritage Site situated in central west Thailand. This male cat stopped for a quick drink as I sat up in a photoblind some thirty meters away from the water hole. Photo taken using a Nikon D700 with a 400mm f2.8 lens in very late afternoon.

The same tiger taking a quick drink from the seep that is visited by many mammals

Good things sometimes come our way and I was about to get a reward to coincide with ‘2010 – The Year of the Tiger’. The absolute chronology of being at the right place, the right time with the right equipment and the right technique was played out before my eyes. On the 11th of December 2009 (my lucky number again), the tiger in the lead photo and I crossed paths.

Tiger male in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand

Taking a quick look back at me in the photo-blind

The trail through dry dipterocarp forest takes about 45 minutes to walk to a photographic blind set above a waterhole deep in the interior of Huai Kha Khaeng. The flimsy structure made of bamboo sits about two meters off the ground and is attached to a tree. Black mesh closes off the cubicle on all four sides that was erected by the park rangers. An opening large enough for a big lens allows a clear view of the waterhole some 30 meters downhill to a saucer shaped depression.

This water supply attracts many creatures such as elephant, gaur, banteng and other ungulates like sambar and wild pig, especially during the dry season. Tiger, leopard and Asian wild dog also come looking for prey. It is truly a magical place and a tribute to Thailand’s natural biodiversity. Arriving about 12pm, I immediately set-up my cameras and then waited. Feeling dozy about 2pm, I strung my hammock for a bit of a snooze after the long haul from Bangkok. The afternoon passed-by and about 5pm I got up and began a vigil of the mineral lick.

Indochinese tiger in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, a World Heritage Site situated in central west Thailand. This male cat carried on as I sat up in a photoblind some thirty meters away from the water hole. Photo taken using a Nikon D700 with a 400mm f2.8 lens in very late afternoon.

the same tiger as above on the move.

A few minutes later I decided to actually sit behind my Nikon 400mm f 2.8 lens and D700 camera, and do some adjustments to compensate for the fading light. Took a few test shots to make sure the exposure was correct and then waited. Two minutes later, the dream of a lifetime unfolded before me. A striped carnivore magically and silently appeared from the forest on my right. The tiger walked straight down to a little stream for a quick drink. The mature male did not linger and continued on his way. However, he did pause briefly to stare up at my position three different times before disappearing into the forest on my left. Total time spent by the cat at the waterhole was less than a minute. He then circled my position and growled at me from where he had entered the waterhole; now that was exciting..!

Indochinese tiger's "Last Look"

A last look; he then circled my position and growled at me as a warning

I was lucky to have been sitting down with my hands on my lap in front of my camera. If I had been standing, or made just the slightest noise, I would have never seen this old male. I was extremely fortunate to snap 20 frames as this magnificent creature carried on its way. I banged my head against my camera in disbelief to make sure I was not dreaming. The ultimate photograph for me was now in the bag so to speak.

Notes from the field: Camera equipment and technical elements

In order to photograph these elusive predators or any other large mammals or birds for that matter, a large lens (400mm to 600mm) and a semi-pro to pro camera body from any of the big guns like Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Sigma and Leica is needed. A tripod and a shutter release is an absolute must for sharp shots. It must be understood though that this equipment is expensive.

I set my Nikon camera to aperture priority (auto), an appropriate ISO depending on the time of day or the light (normally 400 ISO), and the white balance to ‘cloudy’ with an f-stop of ƒ5.6 to ƒ8 with minus -7 compensation. This gives me a good starting point and I can quickly change these settings or compensation for the ever-changing light in the forest.

After 20 years of wildlife photography, my aspiration to photograph a tiger through the lens has finally come true. However, in closing and it does need repeating; the powers to be (the government) must come up with much better management plans for saving not only the tiger but all the rest of wild animals and ecosystems that evolved over millions of years. It is hoped my photographs of the tiger and other amazing Thai animals will create conservation awareness, so that the destructive process of modernization and humanization can be slowed if not stopped. The Kingdom’s natural resources are irreplaceable and time is running out!

Camera-trap units and equipment manufacturers:

The following companies specialize in camera-trap electronic infrared boards plus equipment, complete units and knowhow (listed below). I recommend these as the best but there is a rip-off or two with loads of empty promises, lots of jargon and does not deliver on their promises, so beware. Due to possible litigation, I am not at liberty to say who they are so please do not ask. When you see a lot of rambling on about how good they are, think before buying. I know because they burned me with boards that did not work and then would not be responsible for the poor quality and/or replacements. There are also complete camera-trap units available from quite a few manufacturers but are quite expensive for the good ones. The cheap ones do not stand up to the tough conditions of most Thai forests. Importing them into Thailand can also be costly with shipping and taxes. The main reason why I build my own.

Passive infrared boards:
http://www.snapshotsniper.com and http://www.rcdavisgamecamerasolutions.weebly.com/

Completed camera-trap units are also available: For an in depth overview on trail cameras check out ‘Trailcampro.com’

Moultrie.com – Cuddleback.com – Bushnell.com – Browning. com – Reconyx.com (the quickest trail camera on the market) are just some of the makes and many others via for market share.

Some final words: If you live near a forest in Thailand or anywhere in the world, chances are there might be some cryptic wild species still living there. But unfortunately, domestic plus feral dogs and cats can be found in many of these small patches of wilderness, and take everything they can catch and eat. I once camera-trapped feral dogs at 2,300 meters above seal level in Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. It was a very disappointing discovery, and I only felt remorse for all the beautiful creatures struggling to live in this high-montane forest.

The frustrations, expenses and difficulty of photographing wildlife vanish when I view my work, and that keeps me going after those elusive tigers and other cryptic species. I have had some great success camera-trapping tapir, clouded leopard and marbled cat (poor night-time photo but good record shot) down south in Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary. This location is very deep in the protected area and I plan to do some serious work here to catch this beautiful marked predators and mammals, as they are very endangered and difficult to observe in the forest.

As most of you know, I have been working with more sophisticated camera-traps using DSLR digital cameras with good lenses and multiple flashes for improved photo quality. I have posted many threads and photos concerning this new camera-trap work. It is truly an exciting experience when one sees digital files with wild animals going about their daily lives as nature intended. It makes everything worthwhile….!

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First time DSLR Camera Trap Location

Monday, April 17, 2017 posted by Bruce 3:01 PM

‘Tiger, leopard, tapir, gaur, elephant, sambar and barking deer visit a Nikon D90 camera trap…!

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A female Indochinese tiger camera trapped near a ‘hot spring’ in the ‘Western Forest Complex’ of Thailand…(image cropped)…!

For some twenty years, I have been visiting a natural seep in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand to photograph wildlife that come for important minerals flowing from a rocky formation. It has been extremely rewarding over the years, and I finally decided to set a DSLR camera trap just above the natural hot springs.

Tiger2 hotspring HKK-web

In one frame, this female stepped forward and turned its head because of the flash…!

I knew that tiger and leopard visited this place hunting prey species like muntjac (barking deer), sambar, wild pig and tapir plus other animals such as gaur, banteng and elephant. I chose a trail that is about 4 meters away from the hot spring. I left the cam for almost two months and it was still working when I returned, but flash power had long drained away.

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Same female tiger back again 2-weeks later at night…!

A female tiger visited first at night on Feb. 14, 2017. She then came back past the cam three times on Feb. 21, again at night passing the camera several times. Then a leopard came by during the daytime on Feb 26th. Other creatures like sambar, muntjac, tapir, gaur and elephant tripped the camera many times during the two-month soak.

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The female once again that night…need to move the cam for future head-on shots…!

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And again making for a very good record of her visit to this cam…!

However, most shots are all butt shots. It looks like they have come to the spring and then walked past my camera going up-hill hence mostly rear-end shots.

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A male leopard walking past in the morning. Daytime shots of carnivores are rare here…!

I hope to go back here in a week or so where I will be moving the camera with a wide-angle lens for more on-coming shots.

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A female tapir in mid-afternoon passing the cam.

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Tapir pair with the male on the left…

I’m also after a black leopard that I have seen here almost twenty years ago and then again recently about two years ago.

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A young female gaur on the way down to the hot-spring…!

Elephant trunk, tail and legs HKK

Elephant trunk, tail and legs…! These giants always test my ‘elephant proof’ cameras…!

Scruffy sambar yearling HKK

A scruffy sambar yearling at night…!

I was delighted to get this amount of wildlife traffic and look forward to future set-ups’ here…!

Tiger hunter testing Nikon D90 cam

Tiger hunter testing D90

Tiger Hunter testing his Nikon D90 DSLR camera trap…!

PLEASE NOTE: Recently, an American so-called ‘Wildlife NGO’ stole one of my tiger images, cut my name and copyright off the image and published it on their website without any permission to use said image and credit to me. At this time, I’m not sure what course of action I should take. However because of this, I will now be ‘water marking’ through the subject on all of my images for the future with my name as follows: © L. Bruce Kekulé

I thought that an American NGO would be honest and sincere about © copyright…but that is not the case as proof of theft has been recorded and action is being taken against this NGO and its CEO. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Camera trap blues plus a close encounter…!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017 posted by Bruce 6:58 PM

Two stolen cams and a female elephant in the dense bush on Dec. 30, 2016…!!

An Indochinese tiger passes my Nikon D700 DSLR camera trap on 8/13/2016 – 6:24 AM…!

As most of my friends know, I went to the USA back in September 2016 to do a road trip and my first ‘bucket list’ visiting the Grand Canyon, Zion, Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks respectively, and then up into Canada. It was a great trip and I was able to tick those items off my list. I returned to Thailand on Nov. 15th and it took me sometime before I could get into the forest to check my camera traps.

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A young bull elephant taking in minerals…!

Before I left, I set four DSLR traps, and three video cams where I usually work in the ‘Western Forest Complex’ northwest of Bangkok. Over the years, this place has proven very productive capturing photos of tigers and other cryptic creatures in the wild forests found here. Thailand’s natural legacy is still thriving and I have some remarkable images of nature on file.

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A banteng bull bolts as the cam’s flashes go off…!

Unfortunately, lady luck decided to look the other way. Two videos (a Bushnell Trophy Cam and a ‘Fireman Jim’ DXG 125-day only cam) were stolen by poachers (or some other dishonest and very undesirable people) which of course was a shock to me…I’ve been working in this sanctuary for more than 20 years and never lost anything…I was proud of this fact and record. So it’s back to the drawing board to improve the possibility of theft. I have ‘elephant proofing’ down pat but a new design to double-up the security of all my cams is needed (extra work for me) and I will post this at a later date.

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A pair of banteng cows bolt from the mineral deposit…!

So I decided to move out of the area and not set any camera traps here for now. But there is a hot-spring close by with a blind set up to facilitate photography through the lens. This natural place has tiger and leopard that roam around and it is here 18 years ago, that I photographed a black leopard up at the mineral deposit. I got my Nikon D4s with a 200-400mm lens and tripod, and a Nikon D3000 with a Tamron 70-200mm lens ready plus some snacks, water, camo material plus my pistol (remember elephant country) and hiked in about a kilometer to the blind. On the way in, I bumped into a wild elephant camp with fresh tracks and poop all over the place. A big herd was nearby…!

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A young sambar stag in the morning…!

As usual, I just moved through and then sat in the blind that afternoon collecting some nice shots of barking deer and a young male peafowl shown here. Around 6pm, I packed-up for the walk back to the truck. About 100 meters down the track, I saw a big elephant on the trail…oh poop, my trail back to the truck was blocked and I certainly was not going to put my life in jeopardy (mother’s with small baby elephants or big tusk-less bulls means certain death). I turned back towards the blind and there was another smaller jumbo behind me.

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A pair of sambar does late at night…!

This was serious as it seemed I was surrounded by the herd. So the only thing was to pop-off a round in the air with my Colt Government .38 Super Auto which brought out a roar from the big one down on the trail but the little one fled into the bush. I rushed back to the blind and threw down my chair and some trash in a plastic bag, and then hauled butt up another hill with a trail back to my parked truck. Up I went and it was rough going but I continued on. After about 20 minutes of thrashing around, it turned dark. With my headlamp on, I still struggled to find a trail. I got the shock of my life when I bumped into a huge female elephant not more than 6 meters away. She snorted at me and made a short mock charge but some small trees and saplings stopped her short. My pistol was out again and I let off another round in the air, and then yelled for her to Go, Go, Go as loud as I could.

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A very old tapir taking in minerals…!

I was lucky as she was alone, and squealed high-tailing it in the opposite direction. I let out a sigh of relief and took stock…I had my iPhone and turned on the compass and went west. I then found a worn path back to a mineral deposit at the front near the road and eventually my truck. Now that was a close call and one that I do not want to repeat.

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Muntjac (barking deer) pair at the hot-springs in mid-afternoon…!

It was about 8pm before I got going. About 10 kilometers down the track back to camp, I took a wrong turn and ran over a huge bolder getting stuck. Had to winch myself over it (just replaced a broken cable a few days before – lucky). I got back to camp arriving about 9pm. At the station, had a few sundowners to calm my nerves and then it was straight to bed. I had to go back to the blind the next morning to pick-up my camp chair and that rubbish I had left behind the night before. As I went through the mineral deposit, the elephants had retreated to the deep bush and I passed through without incident..!

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A female muntjac jumping in front of a young male peafowl in display…!

I then left the area and went to where I had set the four DSLRs. During the time I was in the States, my D700 performed extremely well. Got a tiger a few days after I set the cam in late Aug. 2016. Also, got banteng (wild cattle), elephant and sambar and barking deer plus an old tapir. The other three cams did not work at all and I got nothing (primarily battery problems). One of the D700’s flashes and the sensor got ripped up by elephants as I did not have a sturdy tree to attached them to and just laid them on the ground (big mistake). The other flash and the D700 were fine having attached with lag bolts to a tree. I will be setting this D700 nearby at another deposit with a bigger tree…!!

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All that’s left of a Bushnell Trophy Cam…!

All in all, getting the tiger was a plus even though it’s not a very nice photograph with leaf shadow on its face from the flash on the ground. As soon as time permits, I’ll be setting more DSLRs at my favorite places before a scheduled trip to India in late-February…! Finally, I want everyone to know that I carry a pistol for protection, and as a noise-maker when necessary as in this case. I might not have made it back on the 30th December if I did not have my sidearm…!!

stolen-video-cam-2

All that’s what is left of a ‘Fireman Jim’ DXG 125 video cam: Opened by humans and then bent by elephants…!

Following is a gallery of elephants by camera trap and through the lens…!!

tuskless-bull

This is what they call a ‘Tuskless Bull’…taller and bigger than a tusker…!

Elephant family unit in HKK Feb. 2016

A family unit has just left the hot-spring close to where I was sitting….they were about 100-yards away…!

Elephants in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand.

Bumping into one of these guys or gals at night can be scary…!

Elephants in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand.

And they can ring your neck and that’s be all she wrote…!

 

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A youngish elephant at the old ‘tiger log’…!

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Elephants camera trapped by the river…!

Elephants in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, western Thailand.

A young tusker and female on a trail in the bush at night…!

Baby tusker elephant in Klong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Surat Thani, southern Thailand

Even a very young bull could wreck havoc if you bumped into him deep in the bush…!

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The ‘tiger hunter’ setting one of his cams in the ‘Western Forest Complex’…!

For the most part, wild elephants will flee at the first sight or smell of humans. However, there are exceptions and many a trekker, poacher and ranger has met their fate with a mother and infant, or an old mean bull. The best option is to climb a tree but this is not always possible. Running uphill is another way to escape these beasts if they are determined to stomp you…I always pray to the forest spirits not to bump into the jumbos period….life is too short…!!

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My favorite Asian leopard shot…!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 posted by Bruce 8:43 PM

After several years of working my Nikon D700 trail cam, this shot stands out as my best overall leopard shot. These carnivores are quite common where I work in the ‘Western Forest Complex’ of Thailand but daytime shots are rare. Unfortunately,  the ‘tiger log’ is now gone (burnt-up in the last ‘fire’ season) and I’m still looking for a good replacement…but I have a few in mind….!! He’s a big mature male Asian wild cat…Enjoy…!

Asian leopard crossing 'tiger log'

 

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After a few years of DSLR camera trapping in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand, I have finally chosen an image of a male Indochinese tiger caught one afternoon at 4.41pm that is my all-time favorite. For this location, I built a Canon 600D with an old Nikon 50mm manual lens incorporating an adapter (Nikon to Canon) in a Pelican 1150 case with an external Snapshotsniper SS II sensor on a 10-meter hardwire, and two SB28s in Tupperware® style boxes also on 10-meter hardwires. This mature tiger was out hunting when he passed the cam and the manual settings were ISO 400; ƒ8; 1/100 sec. and this shot was the last in a string of six. Enjoy…!

indochinese tiger male - Canon 600D

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Nikon D3000 travel cam catches a palm civet, jackals, wild boar, langur monkey and a semi-feral cat…!

Common Palm civet at Ken River Lodge in Panna Tiger Reserve

An Asian palm civet in a dry stream bed at the Ken River Lodge, Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India…!

In March 2016, I made a trip to Panna Tiger Reserve in India after tigers. I was lucky catching two sisters, the offspring of T1, Panna’s first tiger reintroduced from near-by Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. Poachers completely wiped out the big cat in Panna in one year during 2008 but there are 32 tigers thriving now which is an amazing conservation success story.

Jackal at Ken River Lodge in Panna Tiger Reserve, India

Jackal shown here bolting from the flash…! These canidae usually travel in pairs…!

I stayed at the Ken River Lodge outside the reserve several kilometers from the front gate to the park. Pugpundee Safari Company manages this hotel plus others in Bandhavgarh, Pench, Kanha and Satpura tiger reserves in the State of Madhya Pradesh.

Wild boar at Ken River Lodge in Panna Tiger Lodge, India

A wild boar scavenging in the stream bed…!

The owner wanted to see what was roaming the grounds and invited me to set a camera trap in a dry stream bed not far from my room.  After two weeks, I came back through to check the Nikon D3000 with a Nikon 24mm manual lens, one Nikon SB-28 flash and a SSII external sensor.

Indian langur in the Ken River Lodge - Panna Tiger Reserve

A gray or ‘Hanuman’ langur leaf monkey during the day….!

The cam caught a palm civet, a pair of jackals, a wild boar and a langur monkey plus a semi-feral cat. Although not as glamorous as a tiger or leopard, these wild creatures are still just as important to the ecosystem excluding the cat. Leopard tracks have been found near the river..!

Feral cat at Ken River Lodge in Panna Tiger Reserve, India

A semi-feral cat; sometimes this feline was found sleeping up at the resort…!

Tiger Hunter testing Nikon D3000 at Ken River Lodge

The ‘tiger hunter’ with knee pads walk-testing the D3000…!

 

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A close call for my Nikon D700 DSLR trail cam…!

Friday, May 6, 2016 posted by Bruce 9:12 AM

The ‘Tiger Log’ is No More…!

D700 capture Indochinese tiger 2

An Indochinese tiger crossing ‘tiger log’ in the ‘Western Forest Complex’ of Thailand…!

Asian leopard crossing 'tiger log' in Huai Kha Khaeng, western Thailand

Asian leopard crossing ‘tiger log’ in the ‘daytime…!

Tiger log gone

‘Tiger Log’ is left in a long pile of ash after a serious forest fire in late-March, 2016…!

In early March of 2016 before my trip to India, I decided to move my old D700 trail cam as forest fire was edging closer and the fires this year were very intense due to serious drought conditions in Thailand.

Large Indian Civet in HKK, Western Thailand

A large Indian civet crossing the new log…!

This Nikon D700 full-frame DSLR with a 35mm Nikon manual lens in a Pelican 1150 case enclosed in an ‘elephant proof box’ has worked on the ‘tiger log’ in the Western Forest Complex for several years now.

black bear on new log in HKK, western Thailand

A black bear walking the log…!

In the past, I always moved my cameras out of the dryer deciduous areas (usually in March at the beginning of the dry season) to semi-evergreen forests that grow in profusion at higher elevations all year round. Due to moist conditions, these evergreen forests do not burn for the most part.

Male muntjac at the new log in HKK, Western Forest Complex, Thailand

A male muntjac (barking deer) about to cross….!

However, I did have a good run on the log and was lucky to get some really great tiger and leopard shots plus other creatures, big and small. Another location in the semi-evergreen forest was chosen where fires never reach and this year, it was a good thing that I moved my camera as disaster would have killed it on the ‘tiger log’.

Female Muntjac at log in HKK, Western Forest Complex, Thailand

A female muntjac sniffing some scent (Thai fish sauce)…!

When I got back from India, I made a trip into the forest and when I got to the ‘tiger log’, I was shocked. The dead tree had been completely burnt to the ground. All that was left was a long pile of gray ash. If I had left the cam, the old D700 would have been a goner of melted plastic, metal and glass.

Elephant trunk, foot and leg in HKK, Western Forest Complex, Thailand

A big elephant crossing the log…if not tightly secured, the trunk and foot can wreak havoc on cams…!

Here is a collection of images I got from the new log yet to be named. It was OK for a first set but I want to fine-tune the cam (only one flash was working) and also be on the lookout for other ‘log’ locations in the meantime. Fortunately, the first rains have come through and there is no more danger of fire this year. More to follow from the new log…!

Porcupine on New log in HKK

A lightweight porcupine on the log…!

me crossing the new tiger log in Huai Kha Khaeng W.S., western Thailand

A heavyweight ‘tiger hunter’ testing the D700…!

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A goral and a muntjac on the D3000 in India

Monday, April 18, 2016 posted by Bruce 8:39 PM

Two even-toed ungulates caught by my DSLR travel cam…!

Another two species captured on my Nikon D3000 travel cam was a goral (goat-antelope) and a muntjac male (barking deer). Even though these two even-toed ungulates are not as glamorous as the tiger, they are still an indication of the prey base found in Vanghat Wildlife Reserve (private land) in the Corbett Landscape. Hopefully sometime next year, I will be able to return to this place but earlier (about Feb.when it’s cooler). It was boiling hot this year and a bit of a fire hazard (many areas are now being razed by fire) and certainly if I had waited any longer, my camera may have been burnt to crisp)…!

Goral in Vanghat Wildlife Reserve

Goral (goat-antelopes) are found in Northern India in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains…!

Muntjac in Vanghat Wildlife Reserve

A muntjac male (barking deer) are found all over India and a main food source for the big cats…!

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Awhile back, I published a post on ‘my travel cam DSLRs’ on this forum and got some nice mongoose pics from that set last year. I have just wrapped up another trip to Northern India where I set one of my D3000s on a trail in a place called Vanghat resort and private wildlife reserve not far from Corbett Tiger Reserve in the State of Uttarakhand. After only two nights, a female tiger walked past the cam and tripped the sensor several times…this is the best shot from the series…Lady luck doing her magic once again…!!

Female tiger in Vanghat Private reserve

Nikon D3000 with a 24mm manual lens – 2 SB-28s set at 1/4 power..!

Settings: ƒ8; 1/250 sec; ISO 400.

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Creatures in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex – Part One

Friday, March 4, 2016 posted by Bruce 11:07 PM

Video footage of Thailand’s rare carnivores including tiger, leopard, bear and wild dog. Most of this footage is recent..!

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