Population Ecology

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 115–121 | Cite as

Estimating abundance with sparse data: tigers in northern Myanmar

  • Antony J. Lynam
  • Alan Rabinowitz
  • Than Myint
  • Myint Maung
  • Kyaw T. Latt
  • Saw Htoo T. Po
Original Article


As part of a national strategy for recovering tiger populations, the Myanmar Government recently proposed its first and the world’s largest tiger reserve in the Hukaung Valley, Kachin State. During November 2002–June 2004, camera-traps were used to record tigers, identify individuals, and, using capture–recapture approaches, estimate density in the reserve. Despite extensive (203 trap locations, 275–558 km2 sample plots) and intensive (>4,500 trap nights, 9 months of sampling) survey efforts, only 12 independent detections of six individual tigers were made across three study sites. Due to the sparse data, estimates of tiger abundance generated by Program CAPTURE could not be made for all survey sites. Other approaches to estimating density, based on numbers of tigers caught, or derived from borrowed estimates of detection probability, offer an alternative to capture–recapture analysis. Tiger densities fall in the range of 0.2–2.2 tigers/100 km2, with 7–71 tigers inside a 3,250 km2 area of prime tiger habitat, where efforts to protect tigers are currently focused. Tiger numbers might be stabilized if strict measures are taken to protect tigers and their prey from seasonal hunting and to suppress illegal trade in wildlife. Efforts to monitor abundance trends in the tiger population will be expensive given the difficulty with which tiger data can be obtained and the lack of available surrogate indices of tiger density. Monitoring occupancy patterns, the subject of a separate ongoing study, may be more efficient.


Camera-traps Capture–recapture Myanmar Population density Tigers 



The field program was overseen by Khin Maung Zaw, Director of Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, Myanmar Forest Department, Saw Tun Khaing, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Eight staff of the Forest Department and two WCS staff members participated in the tiger survey: Saw Htoo Tha Po, Myint Maung, Zaw Naing Tun, Zaw Win Khaing, Nyunt Hlaing, Hla Naing, Khin Maung Htay, Tun Kyal, Aung Maung, and Maung Shwe. Soe Than and Win Naing provided logistical assistance to field teams. Local guides and porters and work elephants were hired to help locate survey areas and participate in tiger monitoring. We thank Tim O’Brien, Jim Nichols, Marcella Kelly, Andrew Noss, and Scott Silver for suggesting various statistical treatments for sparse data. The final analysis reflects a balance between varying viewpoints over how to deal with such data. Comments and suggestions by Will Duckworth, Tim O’Brien, and two anonymous reviewers helped improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antony J. Lynam
    • 1
  • Alan Rabinowitz
    • 2
  • Than Myint
    • 3
  • Myint Maung
    • 4
  • Kyaw T. Latt
    • 3
  • Saw Htoo T. Po
    • 3
  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation Society, International ProgramsNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.PantheraNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Wildlife Conservation Society, Myanmar ProgramYangonMyanmar
  4. 4.Division of Wildlife and Nature Conservation, Forest DepartmentMinistry of ForestryYangonMyanmar

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