Previously applied methods for estimating tiger (Panthera tigris) abundance using total counts based on tracks have proved unreliable. In this paper we use a field method proposed by Karanth (1995), combining camera-trap photography to identify individual tigers based on stripe patterns, with capture-recapture estimators. We developed a sampling design for camera-trapping and used the approach to estimate tiger population size and density in four representative tiger habitats in different parts of India. The field method worked well and provided data suitable for analysis using closed capture-recapture models. The results suggest the potential for applying this methodology for estimating abundances, survival rates and other population parameters in tigers and other low density, secretive animal species with distinctive coat patterns or other external markings. Estimated probabilities of photo-capturing tigers present in the study sites ranged from 0.75 - 1.00. The estimated mean tiger densities ranged from 4.1 (SE hat= 1.31) to 11.7 (SE hat= 1.93) tigers/100 km2. The results support the previous suggestions of Karanth and Sunquist (1995) that densities of tigers and other large felids may be primarily determined by prey community structure at a given site.
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Estimation of tiger densities in India using photographic captures and recaptures