A pungent extract from the anal gland of the coyote, a wild canine species native to North and Central America, is aiding nature researchers here detect elusive wildlife species.

The “lure” has a unique odour that attracted wild animals. It is often placed alongside “camera traps” (automatically activated cameras that used motion, heat or infrared sensors as triggers) that also enabled researchers to estimate the richness and diversity of wildlife in the State's forests.

Wildlife researcher A. Mathews Nixon Armstrong, whose camera trap had captured the image of an adult tigress (arguably for the first time) in Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in January this year, said that to successfully use camera traps researchers needed to first familiarise themselves with the feeding and migratory habits of wild animals.

The Forest Department had granted him access to the moist deciduous lowland forests of the Western Ghats to spot the critically endangered Malabar Civet. He said he learned much about the habits of wild animals from wildlife enforcers and forest tribes.

The imported lure was extracted from domestically bred coyotes (also known as the American jackal or prairie wolf) in the United States and preserved chemically to extend the product's shelf life.

The lure was applied on fallen leaves or tree trunks near the vicinity of camera traps. Sometimes it was inserted into small holes made on the forest floor.

A wildlife enforcer said that the Forest Department would consider the use of concealed and tamper-proof camera traps to trap poachers and prevent theft of forest produce and valuable timber, particularly sandalwood.

At Thenmala in Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, about 72 km away from the capital, forest enforcers had successfully used camera traps to catch two poachers in January. At the behest of the Forest Department, wildlife researchers had set the camera trap in the forests (rich in gaur, mouse deer and barking deer) abutting an expansive rubber plantation.

Two poachers, one of them armed with a country-made muzzle-loading gun, saw the camera flash and heard it click. They destroyed the equipment, but the memory card of the digital camera, which contained their images, remained intact. They were subsequently arrested.