Posts Tagged ‘camera-trapping’

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


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.


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..!


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.


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.


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.

A500 tiger male with collar

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.

D700 capture Indochinese tiger 2

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: and

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


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.


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.


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…!


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.


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.


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.


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..!


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…!!


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…!!


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…!!


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…!



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

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…!


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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An ISO Blunder

Sunday, January 11, 2015 posted by Bruce 8:43 AM

Sony A500 catches a tiger and poachers at ISO 12,800

Sometimes, mind lapse is a serious problem for a senior citizen like myself. I set my Sony A500 on a trail just inside the boundary of my favorite protected area in Thailand. This location has already produced some amazing shots of black leopard and tiger plus many prey species like elephant, banteng, barking deer, sambar and wild pig.

Tiger male with collar in Huai Kha Khaeng Tiger male with collar in Huai Kha Khaeng Tiger male with collar in Huai Kha Khaeng Tiger male with collar in Huai Kha Khaeng

Tiger passes the Sony A500…!

Tiger male with collar in Huai Kha Khaeng Tiger male with collar in Huai Kha Khaeng Tiger male with collar in Huai Kha Khaeng

Tiger with a radio collar passes the Sony…!

On the negative side of things, this cam has also caught poachers and gatherers as they illegally sneak into, and exit the sanctuary. Poor patrolling and enforcement with many loopholes allow these undesirables to penetrate and poach animals and forest products for sale or personal use. It is a serious threat to all of Thailand’s protected areas and is on-going problem for the Department of National Parks (DNP)…!

Poacher in Huai Kha Khaeng

Poacher in Huai Kha Khaeng

Poacher in Huai Kha Khaeng

Poacher in Huai Kha Khaeng

Poachers with baskets and digging tools after bamboo shoots during the rainy season…! 

Poacher in Huai Kha Khaeng    Poacher in Huai Kha Khaeng

Wildlife poachers with no basket…!

This Sony has been working very well catching a male tiger with a radio collar at night several months ago. I noticed that several people on the forum were setting their cams at ISO 200 and thought I would give it a try. When I left the cam, I thought it was at the 200 setting.

A month or so later, I went back to change out batteries, card and desiccant, and saw the same tiger with a collar had visited twice plus some poachers caught using the same path. When I downloaded the images, I was shocked to see the ISO at 12,800…what the heck happened here…?

I don’t know but it looks like I did not save the settings before buttoning up the cam and somehow pushed the 12,800-button. This was of course another disappointment. The shots are cluttered with noise and I have tweaked the images but it’s a fact: photos with ISO this high is absolute rubbish and can only be counted as record shots.

Another thing: only one flash on the right was working hence the deep shadow. I found a broken wire on the other flash so brought the whole unit in for repair. I will be setting another Sony (A55 with a 55mm lens) DSLR cam with 4 flashes (hard-wired) to see what might pass-by.

Tiger hunter in Huai Kha Khaeng

The ‘Tiger Hunter’ setting a Bushnell Trophy Cam…!

The A500 cam is now back in the forest but at a new location with settings at ƒ8 – 1/125 – ISO 200. It was working well firing off 4-shot strings during walk test and hopefully it will produce some good shots now. Leopards and tiger plus all the other denizens of the Thai forest use this trail so I can only wait till I get back to the cam in a couple weeks.……!

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Nikon D90 catches a rare ‘clouded leopard’…!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 posted by Bruce 11:07 AM

One of the most beautiful of all the Asian wild cats

Clouded Leopard in Khlong Saeng

Once upon a time, the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) was found all over Thailand when some 75 percent of the country was covered in forest. At the end of WWII, the human population really began to explode and these magnificent biospheres were cut down for agriculture and settlement taking all the natural resources in its wake. Modern transportation, weapons and logging on a grand scale began to quickly shrink this once remarkable heritage.

Barely 20 percent forest cover is now surviving in an ever-shrinking wilderness. The clouded leopard has been exterminated primarily for its pelt and now survives in all but a few protected areas throughout the Kingdom. It is one of the most beautiful marked creatures in the world. The marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), another wild feline is similar in coat pattern but smaller in size. Both of these cats have become extremely rare throughout their range.

In July of this year, I decided to make a trip down to Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary in southern Thailand in conjunction with Greg McCann and Habitat I.D. (NGO to monitor wildlife in Southeast Asia) to set some camera traps in the moist evergreen forest to see what was still thriving here. Three years ago, I did a camera trap and photographic survey of this protected area and got a marbled cat up on a ridgeline in the interior, plus a clouded leopard in a cave entrance at another location. I knew there was still good possibilities that I would get these cats again.

I decided to set my Nikon D90 DSLR trail cam along with a couple Bushnell Trophy Cams at this same location. Unfortunately, the hard-wired slave flashes were not working due to wiring problems and so left the cam with its single hot-shoe mounted Nikon SB-400 flash. I knew then if the cam caught any creature, I would get images with ‘eye-shine’ but decided to leave it anyway.

I have just returned from Khlong Saeng to collect the data from these cams. Imagine my surprise to see a clouded leopard on the D90’s card. It was an absolute joy to see this cat had passed the cam and even though the ‘eye-shine’ was there, the markings and beauty of this carnivore is truly remarkable. I have pulled the D90 and put a Canon 400D with three Nikon SB-28 slaves which was working very well when I left it. The Bushnell cams also recorded many other species and I will be doing a video post soon. Enjoy…!

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Sony A500 catches a male tiger with a ‘radio collar’

Saturday, October 4, 2014 posted by Bruce 8:24 PM

A male Indochinese tiger in the Western Forest Complex of Thailand..!

A500 tiger male with collar

What are the odds that my DSLRs would capture two different tigers sporting radio collars within one week of each other..? These are real fluke camera trap shots taken some twenty kilometers away from my Nikon D700 that caught a female also with a collar at the ‘tiger log’. I just posted this on this website a couple of days ago.

A500 tiger male with collar

The Sony A500 was triggered by a male tiger on Sept. 17, 2014 at 10:26 PM while the D700 got a female on Sept. 24 at 5:45 AM. I only captured two tigers this trip and it seems weird that they both have collars. Maybe the ‘spirits of the forest’ wanted me to really show and tell the world what is actually going on in this forest concerning tigers. Who knows..?

A500 tiger male with collar

Needless to say, I’ve already vented my feelings about tigers and radio collars in my recent D700 post so there’s no sense in going there again. However, the A500 got a nice string of shots of this male with a huge collar. I think the battery is on the bottom and transmitter on top. This monstrosity surely looks heavy..!

A500 tiger male with collar

Unfortunately, only one flash on the right triggered which was a bit of a let-down. The other flash was up high on the tree pointing down at the tiger and would have cancelled that shadow. It was one of those things and there’s always next time. The A500 fired four quick shots and as the big cat jumped forward, triggered another five as he leaped to the right. All in all, I was still pleased with the results and look forward to a ‘black cat’ that I once videoed in broad daylight at this very location.

A500 tiger male with collar

Noise is also a problem with these images, as I had to do some heavy tweaking in Camera Raw and Photoshop to get them to acceptable levels. If I had been shooting in JPG. format, there would be no chance to bring these back. RAW capture is the only way to revive images when things get dark with not enough light.

A500 tiger male with collar

I’m not sure if this is inherent to Sony but I think most makes and brands with low light means serious noise although the newer pro-cameras handle noise quite well. The settings are: ƒ8 – 1/80th – 400 ISO…flash set to ¼ power, and lens was a Minolta 28mm (old lens I have had for years). It’s a wonder I got these shots at all..!

A500 tiger male with collar

Oh well, back to the drawing board on flash standby power. I’m putting together a couple Nikon SB-28 and SB-600 flashes that will work with hard-wire or radio triggers with four Eneloop AAs in the flash and four rechargeable ‘Ultracell ‘D’ cells with 11,000 mAh capacity as externals to add more power for longer soaks. This will all fit in a lockable ‘Tupperware’ type box as shown.

A500 tiger male with collar

I will try these on the A500 first to see if there is a difference with staying power. I also believe that three or more flashes are the ticket for well-lit shots…I know Steve Winter with N.G. sometimes uses from 4-5 flashes depending on terrain.

A500 tiger male with collar

It’s a never-ending battle with the DSLRs but I guess that’s what I like about using them: the challenge to get tigers and leopards on digital camera plus all the other cryptic animals in Thailand’s forests…it all becomes worthwhile when I do get a shot or shots…! Enjoy.


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Wild Thailand Part One and Two

Saturday, January 4, 2014 posted by Bruce 10:59 AM

For the first time, a snarling tiger shows what their reaction is to a video cam with red LEDs when actuated at night. This male tiger is a resident at this location in the ‘Western Forest Complex’…a black leopard also passed the cam several times but did not actually look at the LEDs and so no reaction was recorded.

At the second location, the tigers did not seem too bothered by the red blob…! I now have a few cams including my Nikon D700 set-up here and hopefully will catch a tiger with my DSLR trail cam…!! Please enjoy these videos and even though they are a bit fuzzy, still show Thailand’s amazing natural heritage at its best.

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Nikon D90 DSLR trail cam catches a ‘Large Indian Civet’

Friday, September 13, 2013 posted by Bruce 10:35 PM

The ‘Big Cat Trailhead’ has proven to be a real wildlife haven with loads of cats plus other carnivores walking past on almost a daily/nightly basis. Because of so much interaction, I decided to set-up my Nikon D90/SB400/Yeti/Plano 1460 case facing the other way opposite my Canon 400D.

Large Indian civet Nikon D90

The Yeti board was very old and not working too well. I tried to adjust distance and sensitivity but it still would only trip the cam from about a meter away. However, the cam did get one shot of a ‘Large Indian Civet’ shown here. The markings on this medium sized carnivore are unique and these creatures are very common in this forest.

I have since brought the cam home and replaced the board with a Snapshotsniper SSII #5 board and it is now ‘rocking and rolling’. Look forward to checking both cams in a couple of weeks and I’m confident there will be some interesting creatures walking past…! Enjoy.

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A Close Encounter: The saga of a charging bull gaur

Thursday, June 20, 2013 posted by Bruce 11:06 PM

Gaur: Thailand’s magnificent mega-fauna

A truly close call with the largest bovid in the world…!


A bull gaur camera trapped at the trail-head a week before about 100 meters from where I was charged. Probably the same old bull that tried to kill me…!!

About two weeks ago, I hit the jackpot out of all my 48 years in Thai forests. I was alone and it was raining in the Western Forest Complex. I had just set a Bushnell Trophy Cam set to video at a trail-head where I previously got a big bull gaur, a bull banteng, elephant, black leopard, wild dog, tapir, wild pig and barking deer.

As I was walking in to set a few more traps, I saw some fresh gaur tracks and judging from the size, noted it was a big mature bull. I went in a little bit more and decided to turn back as the bush was really thick and it was getting late.


A mature bull banteng on the trail.

I had gone about 50 meters and all of a sudden, a bull gaur no more than six meters away, snorted at me. I snorted back thinking he would run away. In the next moment, this huge beast punched through the bush with its head down in the classic position to hook bad people and throw me into the trees.

I saw the right horn base for a fraction of a second and it took me another fraction of a second to do the only thing possible and that was to drop down to the left flat on my stomach with my head down. The bull jumped over my legs and then circled around to do more business of trying to kill me.

What seemed like a lifetime, I heard him thrashing around breaking saplings and stamping on the ground some 10 to 15 meters away. A second charge was imminent and could be disastrous if he used his hooves to trample me. Only one thing would save me now.


Banteng bull close-up.

I quickly pulled out my pistol (.45-ACP ‘Para-Ordnance’ alloy frame), loaded it and let off a shot in the air all the while still lying down. After the report a few seconds later, the bull high-tailed it crashing off into the forest behind me. WOW, that was a close encounter and truly a heart-stopper. I stayed on the ground for quite awhile to make sure he was really gone.

In all my years in the forest, I have never been this close to a gaur or had the experience of a charging bull. No telling if this old bovid had been shot and wounded previously by poachers, and that he really hated humans. Or was he just an old guy with a bad temper and considered me a threat when I barked back at him. I will never really know how close I came to instant death…!

Many a Thai hunter has been killed by gaur because they froze in their tracks and just stood there not reacting in time. I have read in several books that the only way to avert death is to drop flat on all fours with your head down, or to have a very large caliber rifle (minimum .458 caliber) on ready. I had a Nikon D7000 and a 70-300 VR lens. I was lucky to be packing a sidearm..!!


A black leopard close-up.

How did I react so fast and survive? I have one man to thank. He is my dear old friend Gordon Young, author of the book ‘Tracks of an Intruder’, a classic tome about hunting in northern Thailand in the 1950s. He talks about the evasive action needed in this urgent situation in a chapter about a man-killer bull gaur in Mae Salak in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. I certainly thought of him right after this…!

I feel extremely lucky to have survived this attack and it was absolutely the most exciting experience that I have ever had, bar none! I have been two meters away from a black leopard just outside my blind, and that did not even hold a candle to this charging solitary bull. I certainly did not have time to take a photo.

Maybe being born under the star ‘Taurus’ (May 19th) had something to do with it, or maybe the ‘good old spirits’ of the Thai forests took care of me and pushed me down at the right moment. This incident surely has me thanking my lucky star.


Asian wild dog pack out hunting.

Gaur are wild forest ox and the largest bovid in the world standing 1.7 meters at the shoulder weighing close to a ton for mature bulls with a distinctive dorsal ridge and a large dewlap, forming a very powerful appearance. Cows are only about 10cm shorter in height, but are more lightly built and weigh 150 kilograms less.

These beasts have stout limbs with white or yellow stockings from the knee to the hoof. The tail is long and the tip is tufted to ward-off biting insects. Newborns are a light golden color, but soon darken to coffee or reddish brown. Old bulls and cows are jet black but south of the Istamas of Kra, some take on a reddish hue.

All bovine share common features, such as strong defensive horns that never shed on males and females, as well as teeth and four-chambered stomachs adapted to chewing and digesting grass. Their long legs and two-toed feet are designed for fast running and agile leaping to escape predators. They are gregarious animals, staying in herds of six to 20, or more. A large herd of 50 was recorded in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary but that was a long time ago.


Wild boar in the morning.

Due to their formidable size and power, gaur has few natural enemies. Tiger, leopard and Asian wild dog packs occasionally attack unguarded calves or unhealthy animals, but only the tiger has been reported to kill a full-grown adult. Man is their most dangerous adversary.

These herbivores graze on grass but also browse edible shrubs, leaves and fallen fruit, and usually feed through the night. They also visit mineral licks to supplement their diet. During the day, they rest-up in deep shade.

A male muntjac (barking deer) with a serious wound on its hind quarter.

Gaur still survive in some protected areas but are in serious decline. It is now estimated that maybe 1000 remain in Thailand. However, some reserves where gaur are breeding in fairly good numbers allowing them to actually increase in number if there is adequate protection.

These enormous beasts live in herds but also become solitary, primarily the males. But I have also seen and photographed several mature females by themselves. Mineral deposits play a very important role in the lives of these wild cattle as does thick forests and steep mountainous terrain with abundant water resources. Their future depends whether they are protected to the fullest extent. Unfortunately, their beautifully curved horns are highly sought after by poachers and people who covet trophies.

A unarmed researcher a day before the big gaur passed by.

Budgets, better funding, more rangers and personnel are needed now. Transparency is a must with the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries so money is used properly and efficiently, and corruption stamped out completely. Now that will be a tough nut to crack. It is hoped this draconian situation will change, so the Kingdom’s natural heritage and the majestic gaur will continue to survive in today’s world.

Additional photos of gaur:

My first encounter with a bull gaur some 15 years ago.

The older bull being chased by a younger one.

Another old bull gaur at a waterhole.

A single gaur cow at a mineral deposit.

Gaur herd including a bull, cows and three calves.

A gaur herd including two banteng in Kui Buri National Park.

A bull gaur track on the right and cow track above.



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A ‘Trails End’ camera trap comes my way

Friday, March 29, 2013 posted by Bruce 9:30 PM

A neat trail cam: Sony P41/Snapshotsniper SS board/Pelican 1040/2 AA externals by Trails End

Last week, I visited my old buddy Suthad Sappu, a forest ranger in Kaeng Krachan National Park down in southwest Thailand along the border with Burma. We worked together along the Phetchaburi River deep in the interior of the park for some 10 years back during the 90s, and we got many tigers and leopards on camera trap plus loads of other cryptic creatures like elephant, tapir, gaur, bear (both species), fishing cat, banded palm civet, banded linsang and many more.

As we were chit chatting over dinner and drinks about our favorite subject, camera trapping, Suthad pulled out a very nice camera trap from his bag. It is a homebrew that was made up by ‘Trails End’ using a Sony P41/Snapshotsniper SS board/Pelican 1040/2 AA externals. It is very well built and looks new, and is unused. The case and eyebolts are dipped in a woodland type camouflage.

He says I can have it if I can get it working. Took me a few minutes with some fresh batteries and reset the date on the Sony. Flipped the toggle switch down and it fired up, and was working normally in a few minutes. I said thank you very much and smiled.

He has two more and I said I could get them going too. Does anybody know who ‘Trails End’ is and are they still in business? They certainly do very good work. I’ll be taking this cam along with a Bushnell Trophy Cam to India on April 3rd after tiger. The lodge I’m staying is reported to have leopards walking through the camp. Can’t wait to get there.

Some days are better than others….especially when a nice trail cam comes your way for free…!





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Camera trapping a new wildlife trail and waterhole…!

Friday, March 8, 2013 posted by Bruce 10:27 PM

Odd-toed ungulates and other fauna in Western Thailand

Some 40 million years ago, the tapir evolved and was found on many continents including North America. These creatures are now thriving in only two areas of the world: Southeast Asia has one species and South America three. The Asian tapir is the largest and have a very distinct two-tone black and white color pattern that acts like natural camouflage, especially at night where the black breaks up its outline. These odd-toed ungulates are now becoming quite rare due to poaching for their meat, and encroachment in tapir habitat.

A young tapir with a distinct ear marking on a wildlife trail

Another more mature tapir a week later

A female tapir at another cam

Other animals caught in this series include elephants, gaur, sambar stag and doe, wild pig, sun bear, porcupine and red jungle fowl.

 Elephants pose for the cam

These creatures were camera trapped using three homebrew cams: a Sony P43/BFOutdoors/1040/C externals, a Sony S600/BFOutdoors/1040/C externals and a Sony S600/Yeticam/alloy box.

Gaur also came through

These cams were setup by a wildlife trail and a waterhole deep in the interior of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary and left for one month during January to February 2013.

Sambar stag and doe

This place is simply amazing with Asian forest ecosystems thriving today that once almost completely covered most of Thailand. In one century, humans have overcome most of the country except for a few places.

Asiatic sun bear

Throughout the Kingdom, the once large tracts of forests are now sliced-up and wildlife has disappeared. Huai Kha Khaeng remains the shinning star of Thailand’s natural legacy going back to the dinosaurs and before…!

Sambar at a waterhole


Red jungle fowl

I now have setup my Canon 350D DSLR with three flashes on this trail. I’m hoping for some good shots with this rig and will be posting these sometime at the end of March.



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