| Pugmark-based Population Monitoring Protocol for the Tiger & other Large Felids
Without reliable estimates of tiger
numbers, it is not possible to assess whether measures
such as bans on the tiger bone trade are effectively
reducing tiger losses. Precise, cost effective techniques
of population monitoring that can be widely used by
field managers are therefore urgently needed.
A commonly used method to determine
the population size of big cats is the pugmark technique.
It is based on the theory that an individual animal
leaves a distinct pugmark (paw print). Plaster casts
or photographs of the cats’ pugmarks are taken
from their range and then analysed by experts to determine
the cat population of the area.
A recent study conducted by the Wildlife
Institute of India tried to establish whether tiger
pugmarks are an effective way of identifying individual
animals, and whether they provide reliable information
for monitoring and counting tiger populations.
WPSI is now supporting a follow up
study on the viability of the pugmark technique in estimating
the size and structure of big cat populations. The project
includes field trials of the pugmark method to assess
its potential for population monitoring of tigers and
three other big cats - the Asiatic lion, the leopard
and the snow leopard.
The project aims to develop a cost
effective, field-friendly, accurate and replicable monitoring
protocol for tigers. At the same time, it is gathering
quantitative evidence that the pugmark technique can
be used for population monitoring of other big cats.
Sandeep Sharma under the supervision
Mr. H.S. Panwar, Ex-director, Project Tiger and Wildlife
Institute of India (WII), Mr. V. B. Sawarkar, Director
& Dean, WII and Dr. Y.V.Jhala, Sr. Reader, WII is
carrying out the project.