The monitoring and management of species depends on reliable population estimates, and this can be both difficult and very costly for cryptic large vertebrates that live in forested habitats. Recently developed camera trapping techniques have already been shown to be an effective means of making mark-recapture estimates of individually identifiable animals (e.g. tigers). Camera traps also provide a new method for surveying animal abundance. Through computer simulations, and an analysis of the rates of camera trap capture from 19 studies of tigers across the species' range, we show that the number of camera days/tiger photograph correlates with independent estimates of tiger density. This statistic does not rely on individual identity and is particularly useful for estimating the population density of species that are not individually identifiable. Finally, we used the comparison between observed trapping rates and the computer simulations to estimate the minimum effort required to determine that tigers, or other species, do not exist in an area, a measure that is critical for conservation planning.