SciBlogs

Archive March 2011

A Perigee Moon Brendan Moyle Mar 21

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Despite the clouds over Auckland on Saturday night, we got a few breaks and the chance to take some photos of the moon.

These photos were taken deliberately underexposed to show off more of the detail on the surface of the moon. Photographing the moon is reasonably straightforward- it doesn’t duck and hide behind leaves or move rapidly. The main challenge is that well, it’s a long way away. So any slightest tremble in the setup you use to take your photo will be inflated- and motion blur introduced to the shot.

I was using a solid tripod, to which I had a Manfrotto geared tripod head. The photos were taken with a 2 second delay, which also locks the camera’s mirror up. I’m using a 300mm lens with a 1.4x TC. This isn’t the ideal focal length for astronomy shots (it’s a bit too short), but, I don’t quite have the resources to get a bigger lens for these events [:)]


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This shot I boosted the contrast to try to show even more relief on the surface
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Film cameras still being employed for tiger research Brendan Moyle Mar 16

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One of the most reliable tools to count tigers is the use of camera traps. The camera is set up with a remote trigger along routes exploited by tigers. When the tiger triggers an infra-red detector, the camera takes a shot.

At the moment, budget constrained conservation agencies are still using film cameras. The reason is quite simple. Cheap compact digital cameras might seem attractive but suffer badly from shutter-lag. This means the tiger isn’t in range when the image is finally recorded. The strictly mechanical shutters of film cameras work much faster. And you need lots of camera traps- usually deployed at 100-200 locations, each with 2 cameras.

The big reason camera traps work is because each individual tiger has a unique pattern of stripes. The stripes in effect, act like a highly visible fingerprint. The old and popular approach of using pug marks (tiger tracks) to estimate numbers has been shown to be very unreliable.

Tribals ask to be poisoned first before tiger reserve established Brendan Moyle Mar 07

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One of the big threats facing tigers has been the loss of habitat. There’s about 1.5m square km of suitable habitat left in Asia. Nonetheless, outside of the Russian Far East, most of these exist as relatively small patches. Outside Russia, 36 sites (about half in India) contain nearly three-quarters of the world’s wild tiger population. These are sites that have the potential to maintain a wild population of 25 or more breeding females.

For many years, developing and enhancing the system of tiger reserves has been a conservation goal. Sadly this has been marked with somewhat conspicuous long term failure. The actual occupancy rate of tigers in suitable habitat has plunged by nearly 40%. Sites like Panna and Sariska have had their tigers completely extirpated by poachers.

Establishing and enhancing habitat for tigers remains an elusive goal. Nonetheless, the recent Global Tiger summit in St Petersburg has promised substantial aid to the creation and enhancement of such reserves.

The problem is that many potential reserves in Asia are also occupied by people. Some of these groups have no rights to be there, while others are often minority groups with a long historical tenure. Moving such peoples out of these forested areas becomes a challenge.

In theory, countries like India have a regulatory process that is supposed to be fulfilled to motivate such tribal groups out. This provides for first, ruling out the possibility of coexistence with tigers. If this is not possible, moving the people out needs the approval of the grahm sabha (village assembly that includes all adults). The compensation package to move out mandates a resettlement location that has all the basic amenities provided.

Nonetheless, the case of the Soliga tribals (adivasis) of the Biligiri Rangaswamy sanctuary shows that nothing is straightforward. About 370 sq km have been deemed critical tiger habitat and will require the eviction of about 1000 tribal households. Rather than consent and compensation being the norm, the suasion of the fait accompli are given as the only option. Consultation is merely telling forest dwellers what is in store for them. The response by the Soliga tribals has been to ask the Minister for Environment and Forests, to be poisoned first before the sanctuary becomes a reserve. (This is in an area where the actual tiger numbers have increased in the sanctuary without the enhancement a reserve should bring).

And while the Soligas tribals are being targeted for removal, leases for coffee-growing companies within the sanctuary (some 1800 acres) remain intact. It remains no surprise that throughout Asia, most poaching of tigers is still being done by local peoples, antagonistic towards the tiger.

(Main Source: http://governancenow.com/views/columns/tribals-vs-tiger-conservation )

Whimsical Cat Photos Brendan Moyle Mar 01

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Well, I’ve been running light on camera gear at the moment. My original a700 had the anti-shake mechanism get slightly detached, so it was shooting slightly off centre. I got it repaired, returned, and the courier managed to break some more parts. It’s back to the repair shop. Sigh. The thing I like about film cameras is that they have a lot less modern electronic parts that are at risk of damage.

I’m feeling in a slightly whimsical mood, so here’s some photos of the local wildlife around here. Also, a sound file of the guy purring…
Purring Cat MP3

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