Do-It-Yourself Tiger Monitoring

March 11, 2009

YouTube may be the latest conservation field tool. WCS-India has posted a series of instructional videos on the site to help researchers and park rangers monitor tigers in the wild.

Wildlife researchers and park managers working in tiger country have a new field guide for the digital age. WCS-India has posted a series of instructional videos called Monitoring Tigers and Their Prey (LINK http://www.youtube.com/monitoringtigers) on YouTube. The videos showcase the latest scientific methods, such as camera trapping, for estimating the numbers of wild tigers and their prey.

Wildlife filmmaker Shekar Dattatri produced the video series in collaboration with renowned WCS tiger scientist Dr. K. Ullas Karanth. The material is based on the acclaimed manual by the same name, edited by Karanth and Dr. James D. Nichols.

“A robust scientific system will allow us to accurately measure population trends of tigers and their prey from year to year,” said Karanth. “Such a system of monitoring could help us prevent local extinctions, like the one that took place in Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan a few years ago.”

Previously, the Indian government relied on the “pugmark” method of estimating tiger numbers, in which researchers counted tiger tracks. The method produced inaccurate results, however, and the government has since discarded it in favor of techniques like those outlined in the video.

WCS-India Country Director Ravi Chellam believes the YouTube lessons could be applied outside tiger turf. “The video will also be useful to people studying other big cats like jaguars, cheetahs, snow leopards, and leopards, because the methods of monitoring are essentially the same,” he said.

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