India has 1411 tigers -- not 3500
March 13, 2008
The assessment, based on remote camera traps and statistical determination of tiger density in key habitats, shows that India's tigers are at great risk due to habitat loss, disappearance of prey, and other pressures. The tiger population in India have fallen from about 40,000 over the past century.
"The biggest threat to tigers in India is depletion of their chief prey like deer, wild pigs and wild cattle by local people," Dr. K. Ullas Karanth, a leading Indian tiger expert and director of the Wildlife Conservation Society-India, told mongabay.com. "Although about 300,000 square kilometers of tiger habitat still remains, much of it is empty of tigers because there is not enough food for them to survive and breed successfully."
Camera trap shot of a tiger in India's Nagarahole National Park. Photo by U. Karanth/Wildlife Conservation Society.
The researchers used remote cameras to identify individual tigers and then accurately estimate population trends in the park. Over 5725 trap-nights of effort the team identified 74 individual tigers using the "noninvasive sampling approach." K. Ullas Karanth, James D. Nichols, N. Samba Kumar, and James E. Hines authored the paper, titled "Assessing Tiger Population Dynamics Using Photographic Capture-Recapture Sampling."
While India's tiger population is near a historic low, some conservationists are hopeful that they can recover.
In a studies published in Ecology and Biological Conservation over the past years, Karanth and colleagues found that parks in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal can sustain nearly twice the number of tigers they currently support if small conservation measures are adopted. Specifically, tiger populations can quickly stabilize when provided with protected habitat and sufficient access to abundant prey.
"The good news is that given the chance, tigers can replenish their numbers; the bad news is that they are not being given that chance in many parts of their range," said Dr. Alan Rabinowitz of the Wildlife Conservation Society in a 2006 statement.