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First Automated Trail Camera
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Automated camera used a decade before Eric Guiler's

Today I discovered an article that might lead to re-writing the history book as far as pioneering automated trail cameras in the search for the thylacine is concerned.

The late Dr Eric Guiler is often cited as being the first researcher to use automated cameras in searching for the Tasmanian tiger (thylacine). The year was 1960, during his second search for the tiger.

However I think we need to re-write the books and list 1950 as the year in which an automated camera was first used in the search for the thylacine.

1950 researcher is anonymous

Interestingly, the researcher in question is noted as being from Victoria (precluding Guiler) but wished to remain anonymous lest he be thought of as "silly"! There is reference, however, to his "patent trip-lighting apparatus". If we speculate that the tiger hunter was also the patent owner, a search of patent records might reveal his identity.

Recent carcass from search area

The two sites he chose to deploy his trip-wire camera were at Cockle Creek - the southernmost locality reachable by road in Australia (in fact, I think the only locality further south is a lighthouse on an offshore island) - and Adamsfield, the location of much discussion on various Facebook groups at the moment following publication of a video interview with "Rusty", who claims to have found a deceased tiger there in 1990 (and most agree it is the same tiger Col Bailey referred to in his most recent book as being accidentally shot).

If the 1990 story is to be believed then our anonymous cameraman of 1950 was right on target, a decade ahead of Guiler, 4 decades ahead of what seems to be the most recent carcass, and 6 decades ahead of our time!

It finishes by saying he intended to return and try again on the west coast.

Full 1950 article

The following article comes from The Mercury, Saturday 11 February 1950, Page 13, where it is attributed to "Peregrine":

NEWS of the extreme rarity
of the Tasmanian "tiger"
evidently did not impress at least
one Victorian naturalist who arrived
in Tasmania about a month ago
equipped with camera and patent
trip-lighting apparatus. Inspired
by a large amount of optimism he
set out to find and photograph one
of the animals in its own environ-
ment.
At least he had heard that it
was not a common animal and
therefore considered it should be
photographed in the wild state be-
fore its extinction made such a
thing impossible.
He spent some time at Adams-
field, and also at Cockle Creek, look-
ing for game pads worn sufficiently
to justify setting his camera and
flash equipment in concealment be-
side the track, with a trip-string
placed in such a fashion that if a
"tiger," or any other animal, in fact,
passed that way, it would take its
own picture.
The cause was worthy, but the
result, of course, quite negative.
No "tiger" showed itself; but he
did see a good deal of the real Tas-
manian bush and enjoyed the ex-
perience. And, while asking me not
to divulge his name as "it might
make him appear silly," he left last
week with the resolve to return for
another few weeks in the Autumn,
to work either at Port Davey or the
Arthur River, where he believed a
"tiger" might be found.

Footnote - support my trail camera business = funds towards tiger search

Regular readers will know that I run a trail camera business called Wildlife Monitoring. Please consider supporting my business as funds from this venture do go towards my ongoing search for the thylacine - including at Adamsfield where the latest most credible evidence originated. Thanks.

Postscript

I originally published this article on 8 Jan 2014 AEST claiming his was the first use of an automated camera in wildlife research. I was quickly corrected by an excellent group of trail camera professionals on Facebook. Trip-wire cameras have been used to capture wildlife photographs since at least the 1920s, so on 9 Jan I updated this article to better reflect that this appears to be the first usage of an automated camera in the hunt for the thylacine. In context it is quite interesting:

  • 1936 = last known thylacine dies
  • early 1940s = sightings, animal tracks, vocalisations in central and west regions
  • 1946 = David Fleay expedition fails but does note tracks and vocalisation
  • 1950 = First use of automated camera
  • 1959 = Eric Guiler's first expedition
  • 1960 = Eric Guiler uses automated cameras

... and so on.


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