On July the 4th, 3 years ago, I had perhaps the best wildlife related moment of my life. I saw one of Thailand's few wild tigers just 30 meters in front of me on a track.
I was alone, I felt confused but not panicky, I wanted to believe there was a tiger in front of me, but my mind would not compute it. In the 10 seconds or so that it was in front of me my mind came up with many other options
to what I was seeing, not willing to believe it was a tiger. The tiger stood staring at the ground in front of him (her?) and my mind became clear, I grabbed my camera, pulled it to my eye, eagerly pressed the shutter button but all I could see was a blur. The camera could not focus because it was turned off. I pulled my head up and so did the tiger. Realizing what was
in front of her (him?) did not belong there, a laconic turn and then a swift exit of the track into a bamboo growth and the security of the forest. It was the end of my first and only wild tiger sighting. I was perplexed as well being a little stunned at my gross failure as a "photographer".
But on that day 3 years ago I decided I was going to make it my goal to photograph one of Thailand's wild tigers. Estimates range from 200 to 400 surviving tigers in Thailand's protected forests so the odds were wildly stacked against it! Add in the fact that many of Thailand's forests are impenetrable jungle stacked the odds even higher. I was going to need help as well as another amazing stroke of luck. And we got both!
It required the building of an automated SLR camera that could sit in the forest for weeks on end waiting for an animal to pass in front of it and then to automatically take a photograph/video. I have to admit that building the camera was one thing, but getting it to work reliably and keeping out Thailand's monsoon, ant and insect population, not to mention the elephants attacking and destroying the cameras constantly, have been much harder and are still a work in progress.
But it was built and so were 5 others to join it. And even with 6 cameras it has still taken 3 months deep in the forest to score that elusive first shot! That's twelve thousand nine hundred and sixty hours (12,960 hrs) for the cameras just silently waiting, to get a 2 second glimpse of a wild tiger, Panthera tigris. It makes me realize just how lucky I was 3 years ago - a chance in a million, literally. SHE looks healthy and well.
The video below shows the actual shot above being taken, you can see the flash from the camera that is hidden in the trees when the shot is taken