Estimating Tiger Abundance from Camera Trap Data: Field Surveys and Analytical Issues

  • K. Ullas KaranthEmail author
  • James D. Nichols


Automated photography of tigers Panthera tigris for purely illustrative purposes was pioneered by British forester Fred Champion (1927, 1933) in India in the early part of the Twentieth Century. However, it was McDougal (1977) in Nepal who first used camera traps, equipped with single-lens reflex cameras activated by pressure pads, to identify individual tigers and study their social and predatory behaviors. These attempts involved a small number of expensive, cumbersome camera traps, and were not, in any formal sense, directed at “sampling” tiger populations.


Capture Probability Camera Trap Capture History Trap Location Camera Trapping 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Amstrup, S. C., T. L. McDonald, and B. F. J. Manly. 2005. Handbook of capture–recapture analysis. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  2. Borchers, D. L. and M. G. Efford. 2008. Spatially explicit maximum likelihood methods for capture–recapture studies. Biometrics 64:377–385Google Scholar
  3. Buckland, S. T., K. P. Burnham, and N. H. Augustin. 1997. Model selection: an integral part of inference. Biometrics 53:603–618CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buckland, S. T., D. R. Anderson, K. P. Burnham, J. L. Laake, D. L. Borchers, and L. Thomas. 2001. Introduction to distance sampling. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Burnham, K. P. and D. R. Anderson. 2002. Model selection and multi-model inference: a practical information-theoretic approach. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. Carbone, C., S. Christie, T. Coulson, N. Franklin, J. Ginsberg, M. Griffiths, J. Holden, K. Kawanishi, M. Kinnaird, R. Laidlaw, A. Lynam, D. W. Macdonald, D. Martyr, C. McDougal, L. Nath, T. Obrien, J. Seidensticker, D. Smith, M. Sunquist, R. Tilson, and W. N. W. Shahruddin. 2001. The use of photographic rates to estimate densities of tigers and other cryptic mammals. Animal Conservation 4:75–79Google Scholar
  7. Carothers, A. D. 1973. The effects of unequal catchability on Jolly–Seber estimates. Biometrics 29:79–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Champion, F. W. 1927. With a camera in tiger-land. Chatto & Windus, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Champion, F. W. 1933. The jungle in sunlight and shadow. Chatto & Windus, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Chao, A. and R. M. Huggins. 2005a. Classical closed population models. Pages 22–36 in S. Amstrup, T. McDonald, and B. Manly, editors. The handbook of capture–recapture analysis. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  11. Chao, A. and R. M. Huggins. 2005b. Modern closed population models. Pages 58–86 in S. Amstrup, T. McDonald, and B. Manly, editors. The handbook of capture–recapture analysis. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  12. Dice, L. R. 1938. Some census methods for mammals. Journal of Wildlife Management 2:119–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Efford, M. 2004. Density estimation in live-trapping studies. Oikos 106:598–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Greenwood, R. J., A. B. Sargeant, and D. H. Johnson. 1985. Evaluation of mark-recapture for estimating striped skunk abundance. Journal of Wildlife Management 49:332–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hiby, L., P. Lovell, N. Patil, N. S. Kumar, A. M. Gopalaswamy, and K. U. Karanth. 2009. A tiger cannot change its stripes: using a three dimensional model to match images of living tigers and tiger skins. Biology Letters 5:383–386Google Scholar
  16. Jett, D. A. and J. D. Nichols. 1987. A field comparison of nested grid and trapping web density estimators. Journal of Mammalogy 68:888–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Johnson, A., C. Vonkhameng, M. Hedemark, and T. Saithgodham. 2006. Effect of human-carnivore conflict on tiger (Panthera tigris) and prey populations in Lao PDR. Animal Conservation 9:421–430Google Scholar
  18. Jolly, G. M. 1965. Explicit estimates from capture–recapture data with both death and immigration – stochastic model. Biometrika 52:225–247PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Karanth, K. U. 1995. Estimating tiger Panthera tigris populations from camera-trap data using capture–recapture models. Biological Conservation 71:333–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Karanth, K. U. and J. D. Nichols. 1998. Estimation of tiger densities in India using photographic captures and recaptures. Ecology 79:2852–2862CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Karanth, K. U. and J. D. Nichols, editors. 2002. Monitoring tigers and their prey: a manual for researchers, managers and conservationists in tropical Asia. Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  22. Karanth, K. U. and M. E. Sunquist. 2000. Behavioral correlates of predation by tiger, leopard and dhole in Nagarahole, India. Journal of Zoology (London) 250:255–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Karanth, K. U., N. S. Kumar, and J. D. Nichols. 2002. Field surveys: estimating absolute densities of tigers using capture–recapture sampling. Pages 139–152 in K. U. Karanth and J. D. Nichols, editors. Monitoring tigers and their prey: a manual for researchers, managers and conservationists in tropical Asia. Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  24. Karanth, K. U., J. D. Nichols, J. Seidensticker, E. Dinerstein, J. L. D. Smith, C. McDougal, A. J. T. Johnsingh, R. S. Chundawat, and V. Thapar. 2003. Science deficiency in conservation practice: the monitoring of tiger populations in India. Animal Conservation 6:141–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Karanth, K. U., J. D. Nichols, N. S. Kumar, W. A. Link, and J. E. Hines. 2004a. Tigers and their prey: predicting carnivore densities from prey abundance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101:4854–4858CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Karanth, K. U., R. S. Chundawat, J. D. Nichols, and N. S. Kumar. 2004b. Estimation of tiger densities in the tropical dry forests of Panna, Central India, using photographic capture–recapture sampling. Animal Conservation 7:285–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Karanth, K. U., J. D. Nichols, and N. S. Kumar. 2004c. Photographic sampling of elusive mammals in tropical forests. Pages 229–247 in W. L. Thompson, editor. Sampling rare or elusive species: concepts, designs and techniques for estimating population parameters. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  28. Karanth, K. U., J. D. Nichols, N. S. Kumar, and J. E. Hines. 2006. Assessing tiger population dynamics using photographic capture–recapture sampling. Ecology 87:2925–2937PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kawanishi, K. and M. E. Sunquist. 2004. Conservation status of tigers in a primary rainforest of Peninsular Malaysia. Biological Conservation 120:329–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kendall, W. L., K. H. Pollock, and C. Brownie. 1995. A likelihood-based approach to capture–recapture estimation of demographic parameters under the robust design. Biometrics 51:293–308PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kendall, W. L., J. D. Nichols, and J. E. Hines. 1997. Estimating temporary emigration and breeding proportions using capture–recapture data with Pollock’s robust design. Ecology 78:563–578Google Scholar
  32. Lee, S. M. and A. Chao. 1994. Estimating population size via sample coverage for closed capture–recapture models. Biometrics 50:88–97PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Manning, T., W. D. Edge, and J. O. Wolff. 1995. Evaluating population-size estimators: an empirical approach. Journal of Mammalogy 76:1149–1158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McDougal, C. 1977. The face of the tiger. Rivington, LondonGoogle Scholar
  35. Menkens, G. E., Jr., and S. H. Anderson. 1988. Estimation of small-mammal population size. Ecology 69:1952–1959CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nichols, J. D. 1992. Capture–recapture models: using marked animals to study population dynamics. BioScience 42:94–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nichols, J. D. and K. U. Karanth. 2002. Statistical concepts: estimating absolute densities of tigers using capture–recapture sampling. Pages 121–138 in K. U. Karanth and J. D. Nichols, editors. Monitoring tigers and their prey: a manual for researchers, managers and conservationists in tropical Asia. Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  38. O’Brien, T. G., M. F. Kinnaird, and H. T. Wibisono. 2003. Crouching tigers, hidden prey: Sumatran tiger and prey populations in a tropical forest landscape. Animal Conservation 6:131–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Otis, D. L., K. P. Burnham, G. C. White, and D. R. Anderson. 1978. Statistical inference from capture data on closed animal populations. Wildlife Monographs 62:1–135Google Scholar
  40. Pollock, K. H., J. D. Nichols, C. Brownie, and J. E. Hines. 1990. Statistical inference for capture–recapture experiments. Wildlife Monographs 107:1–97Google Scholar
  41. Powell, L. A., M. J. Conroy, J. E. Hines, J. D. Nichols, and D. G. Krementz. 2000. Simultaneous use of mark-recapture and radiotelemetry to estimate survival, movement, and capture rates. Journal of Wildlife Management 64:302–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pradel, R. 1996. Utilization of capture–mark–recapture for the study of recruitment and population growth rate. Biometrics 52:703–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rexstad, E. and K. P. Burnham. 1991. Users’ guide for interactive program CAPTURE. Abundance estimation of closed animal populations. Colorado State University, Fort Collins, COGoogle Scholar
  44. Rosenberg, D. K., W. S. Overton, and R. G. Anthony. 1995. Estimation of animal abundance when capture probabilities are low and heterogeneous. Journal of Wildlife Management 59:252–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rowcliff, J. M., J. Field, S. T. Turvey, and C. Carbone. 2008. Estimating animal density using camera traps without the need for individual recognition. Journal of Applied Ecology 45: 1228–1236Google Scholar
  46. Royle, J. A. and K. V. Young. 2008. A hierarchical model for spatial capture–recapture data. Ecology 80:2281–2289Google Scholar
  47. Royle, J. A., J. D. Nichols, K. U. Karanth, and A. M. Gopalaswamy. 2009a. Hierarchical models and inference for spatial capture–recapture data: estimating tiger density from camera trap arrays. Journal of Applied Ecology 46:118–127Google Scholar
  48. Royle, J. A., K. U. Karanth, A. M. Gopalaswamy, and N. S. Kumar. 2009b. Bayesian inference in camera-trapping studies for a class of capture-recapture models. Ecology 90:3233–3244Google Scholar
  49. Sanderson, E., J. Forrest, C. Loucks, J. Ginsberg, E. Dinerstein, J. Seidensticker, P. Leimgruber, M. Songer, A. Heydlauff, T. O’Brien, G. Bryja, S. Klenzendorf, and E. Wikramanayake. 2006. Setting priorities for the conservation and recovery of wild tigers: 2005–2015. The technical assessment. WCS, WWF, Smithsonian, and NFWF-STF, New York, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  50. Schwarz, C. J. and A. N. Arnason. 1996. A general methodology for the analysis of capture–recapture experiments in open populations. Biometrics 52:860–873CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Seber, G. A. F. 1965. A note on the multiple-recapture census. Biometrika 52:249–259PubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Seber, G. A. F. 1982. The estimation of animal abundance and related parameters. MacMillan, NewYorkGoogle Scholar
  53. Seber, G. A. F. and J. F. Whale. 1970. The removal method for two and three samples. Biometrics 26:393–400PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Simcharoen, S., A. Pattanavibool, K. U. Karanth, J. D. Nichols, and N. S. Kumar. 2007. How many tigers Panthera tigris are there in Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary, Thailand? An estimate using photographic capture–recapture sampling. Oryx 41:447–453Google Scholar
  55. Smith J. L. D. 1993. The role of dispersal in structuring the Chitwan tiger population. Behavior 124:165–195CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Smith J. L. D., C. McDougal, and D. Miquelle. 1989. Scent marking in free ranging tigers, Panthera tigris. Animal Behavior 37:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Soisalo, M. K. and S. M. C. Cavalcanti. 2006. Estimating the density of a jaguar population in the Brazilian Pantanal using camera-traps and capture–recapture sampling in combination with GPS radio-telemetry. Biological Conservation 129:487–496Google Scholar
  58. Stanley, T. R. and K. P Burnham. 1998. Information-theoretic model selection and model-averaging for closed-population capture–recapture studies. Biometrical Journal 40:475–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stanley, T. R. and K. P Burnham. 1999a. A closure test for time-specific capture–recapture data. Environmental and Ecological Statistics 6:197–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stanley, T. R. and K. P Burnham. 1999b. Estimator selection for closed-population capture–recapture. Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics 3:131–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sunquist M. E. 1981. Social organization of tigers (Panthera tigris) in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 336:1–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Thompson, W. L., editor. 2004. Sampling rare or elusive species: concepts, designs and techniques for estimating population parameters. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  63. Thompson, W. L., G. C. White, and C. Gowan. 1998. Monitoring vertebrate populations. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  64. Wegge, P., C. Pokheral, and S. R. Jnawali. 2004. Effects of trapping effort and trap shyness on estimates of tiger abundance from camera trap studies. Animal Conservation 7:251–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. White, G. C. and K. P. Burnham. 1999. Program MARK: survival rate estimation from both live and dead encounters. Bird Study 46:120–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. White, G. C., D. R. Anderson, K. P. Burnham, and D. L. Otis. 1982. Capture–recapture and removal methods for sampling closed populations. Los Alamos National Laboratory Publication LA-8787-NERP. Los Alamos, NMGoogle Scholar
  67. Williams, B. K., J. D. Nichols, and M. J. Conroy. 2002. Analysis and management of animal populations. Academic, San Diego, CAGoogle Scholar
  68. Wilson, K. R. and D. R. Anderson. 1985. Evaluation of two density estimators of small mammal population size. Journal of Mammalogy 66:13–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wildlife Conservation Society – India ProgramCentre for Wildlife StudiesBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.U.S. Geological SurveyPatuxent Wildlife Research CenterLaurelUSA

Personalised recommendations