Estimation of tiger densities in the tropical dry forests of Panna, Central India, using photographic capture–recapture sampling


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Tropical dry-deciduous forests comprise more than 45% of the tiger (Panthera tigris) habitat in India. However, in the absence of rigorously derived estimates of ecological densities of tigers in dry forests, critical baseline data for managing tiger populations are lacking. In this study tiger densities were estimated using photographic capture–recapture sampling in the dry forests of Panna Tiger Reserve in Central India. Over a 45-day survey period, 60 camera trap sites were sampled in a well-protected part of the 542-km2 reserve during 2002. A total sampling effort of 914 camera-trap-days yielded photo-captures of 11 individual tigers over 15 sampling occasions that effectively covered a 418-km2 area. The closed capture–recapture model Mh, which incorporates individual heterogeneity in capture probabilities, fitted these photographic capture history data well. The estimated capture probability/sample, = 0.04, resulted in an estimated tiger population size and standard error (N̂(SÊN̂)) of 29 (9.65), and a density ((SÊD̂)) of 6.94 (3.23) tigers/100 km2. The estimated tiger density matched predictions based on prey abundance. Our results suggest that, if managed appropriately, the available dry forest habitat in India has the potential to support a population size of about 9000 wild tigers.