The stripe patterns on tigers are unique to the individual animal, but sufficiently similar that matching by humans is tedious and imperfect. The new software automates the process. The most obvious application is for tracing animals photographed with webcams or "camera-traps", but the data can also be used to match tiger hides offered for sale with known previously living animals to facilitate prosecution of poachers.
Users use coloured dots to indicate the position of the shoulder, hips and tail and the upper and lower margins of the image; the programme does the rest. It essentially unwraps the striped pattern from the tiger's flank and works out how it would look if it were laid out flat. It then compares the new image to every existing one and gives them a score based on how similar they are. The software is freely downloadable.