, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 373-381
Date: 27 Jul 2010

Monitoring tiger populations using intensive search in a capture–recapture framework

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Abstract

Tigers (Panthera tigris) today face multiple threats to their survival in the form of habitat loss, poaching, depletion of wild prey through illegal hunting and loss of connectivity between populations. Monitoring of tigers is crucial to evaluate their status and react adaptively to management problems. Though camera traps are becoming increasingly popular with researchers enumerating cryptic and elusive animals, they have not been embedded in the regular management activities of tiger reserves. Tiger monitoring, though an important part of the management, is usually implemented using the unreliable pugmark approach. Camera trap-based studies are few, usually of short duration, and are generally conducted by individual scientists and organizations. In this study, we integrate photographic mark–recapture with the routine activity of searching and locating tigers for tourist viewing by the park management in meadows of Kanha Tiger Reserve which form a part of the tourism zone. We validate the density estimates from “tiger search approach” against those obtained from camera trapping and radio-telemetry conducted in conjunction in the same area. Tiger density ( \( \hat{D} \) (SE [ \( \hat{D} \) ]) per 100 km2 for camera traps and tiger search, respectively, was estimated at 12.0 (1.95) and 12.0 (1.76) when effective trapping area was estimated using the half mean maximum distance moved (½ MMDM), 7.6 (1.94) and 7.5 (1.97) using the home range radius, 7.3 (1.49) and 7.5 (1.97) with the full MMDM, and 8.0 (3.0) and 6.88 (2.39) with the spatial likelihood method in Program DENSITY 4.1. Camera trapping, however, was five times more expensive than the tiger search method. Our study suggests that “tiger search approach” can be used as a regular monitoring tool in the tourism zones of tiger reserves, where often most of the source populations are located.