New model directly links tiger numbers to amount of prey, study says
Scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and their collaborators from the US Geological Survey’s wildlife research center in Maryland have developed a model that shows a solid quantitative relationship between tiger numbers and the amount of prey available to these highly endangered big cats. Published in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the model can not only accurately predict tiger density over a variety of habitats, but also help safeguard populations by pinpointing the causes of their decline.
The authors tested their model by sampling tiger and prey populations in 11 ecologically distinct sites in India – from grasslands to dry forests – over an eight-year period, with teams of biologists walking more than 4,200 miles to count prey animals, and setting hundreds of camera traps over 8,600 days of effort. Densities of ungulate prey such as deer, antelopes, wild cattle and wild pigs ranged from a low of 5.3 animals per square kilometer in Meghat Reserve, to more than 63 per square kilometer in Pench Reserve. The model predictions matched the measured tiger densities ranging between 3.2 to 16.8 tigers per 100 square kilometers.
Stephen Sautner | WCS
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