Sandesh Kadur wins BBC camera-trap photo award for rare tiger behaviour image

Sandesh Kadur, the wildlife photographer who has been associated with various ATREE projects over the years has received the BBC Wildlife Camera-trap Photo of the Year 2012. He received this award in the Animal Behaviour category for an image of a tiger feeding on a dead rhino in Kaziranga. This picture was part of a photo documentation of the northeast for which Sandesh had begun work in 2009. The result of that photo documentation now forms the subject matter of a book called Himalaya: Mountains of Life, authored by Sandesh Kadur and Dr Kamal Bawa of ATREE. It will be available later this year in bookstores.

This award by the BBC was an attempt to recognize conservation initiatives and the technology that allows scientists and researchers to document events in the wild. As per the BBC site, camera-traps have been one of the more unassuming, affordable technologies, which have ‘proved to be one of the most important developments for field researchers, effectively multiplying the eyes of scientists and conservation workers’. This competition recognises the most visually exciting or significant camera-trap images taken by conservationists around the world. See more on other winners and the competition on

According to Sandesh, his one concern was that the tiger images that he shot had to be irrefutably, unquestionably recognized as located in the Northeast part of the country. The event of a rhino dying in Kaziranga afforded him the perfect opportunity to meet this challenge. Sandesh describes how this came about. “I was in the Rangers' office when the horn of a dead rhino was produced. At first I was shocked. I thought it was a rhino that had been killed by poachers, as often happens in these parts. But later I was relieved to find out from the guards that it was in fact an old rhino that they had been monitoring for some time. It had been spending all it's time wallowing by a waterhole and the guards knew its time had come. A few weeks later on patrol, they found the motionless body of the rhino, which had died of old age. To prevent the horn going into wrong hands the protocol is to hand it over to the Forest Department and report the death of the rhino. Wildlife vets came in and confirmed the rhino had died of old age.

In Kaziranga, a floodplain landscape with one of the highest densities of tigers, there's no way that 'rhino steak' would be passed up by a tiger. So I went ahead and placed a camera trap. The carcass was in a bheel - a waterbody, and I knew a tiger would have to get partly soaked or rather submerged and would have to use the rhino for support whilst feeding. With the aid of some branches pushed firmly into the ground I set up a Passive Trailmaster connected to a Canon Rebel Camera, with an off-camera-shoe chord. Flash 550 EX with Diffuser - connected to two other wireless flashes. 

The tricky part was setting up all this while balancing in a dugout canoe in the middle of the water!”

Images from this photo documentation are also showcased in the 2013 ATREE calendar.

The other winners in the contest are Zhou Zhefeng, for the image of a Chinese leopard, which secured him the top prize of £3,000. The other two Category Winners – both rewarded £1,000 – are a revelatory photo of a tiger feeding on a rhino carcass, taken by Sandesh Kadur during an ATREE biodiversity survey, and the image of an oncilla captured by Robert Wallace for the Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape Conservation Program in Bolivia.