Tigers may still come roaring back

Nov 04, 2013 by Ashley Mooney
Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Although tigers have been threatened with near extinction for decades and some extinction narratives in the 1990s predicted they'd disappear by 2000, they might actually be making a comeback.

Indian conservationist Ullas Karanth thinks tigers can be saved, and the key to saving them is optimism.

"Conservation is about being optimistic, but rationally optimistic," said Karanth, the Wildlife Conservation Society's director of science for Asia and founding director for the Centre for Wildlife Studies in India. He spoke at Duke Oct. 22 for the Ferguson Family Distinguished Lectureship in the Environment and Society.

At one point, tigers occupied about 30 present-day countries, but that range has shrunk by 93 percent to a mere 115,000 square miles of forest, Karanth said.

As India continues to rise through developmental pathways, Karanth said it is crucial to preserve land for all , not just tigers. India is about a third of the size of the United States, but has four times as many people. As India's economy continues to grow, urban areas continue to creep into and to destroy wildlife habitats.

"When I say tiger conversation, I mean all this," he said referencing all of the animals that coexist in the . "In India, the idea that you can have space for nature and that other creatures need space is accepted. It provides a positive platform on which you can build more knowledge."

Wanting to save tigers isn't enough, he said, adding that must be science driven.

Since Karanth began studying tigers in 1986, his program has grown from a small tiger study to a "pretty substantial intervention." He identifies and studies animals using photographic capture-recapture sampling, in which he places cameras throughout the tigers' range and occasionally captures and tracks them using collars.

"It started as a small project and took time," Karanth said. "You can't be Usain Bolt and do conservation. It's a marathon."

Throughout this marathon, conservationists must also utilize human networks to preserve a species. Karanth uses his relationships with a number of people within the government system, religious leaders and the media to promote conservation. He also writes books and articles in the local languages to reach rural populations.

"We don't have a lot of time for experiments or romantic ideas, we need to make sure this species survives," Karanth said. "Solutions that are greatly rewarding [in other countries] just don't work in this context."

By reaching out to as wide of an audience as possible, Karanth said he was optimistic about the future for the tigers.

"I truly believe that we can at sometime have over 50,000 tigers in India again," he said.

Explore further: Nepal's Royal Bengal tiger numbers soar

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Want to Count Wild Tigers? Go to YouTube

Mar 09, 2009

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s India Program (WCS - India) has released a unique training video on YouTube that showcases the latest scientific methods for estimating the numbers of wild tigers and their prey.

Tracking tigers in 3-D

Mar 12, 2009

New software developed with help from the Wildlife Conservation Society will allow tiger researchers to rapidly identify individual animals by creating a three-dimensional model using photos taken by remote ...

Nepal's Royal Bengal tiger numbers soar

Jul 29, 2013

Nepal's number of Royal Bengal tigers in the wild has soared 64 percent to 198 in just four years, according to a government survey released Monday.

The straight poop on counting tigers

Jun 18, 2009

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced today a major breakthrough in the science of saving tigers: high-tech DNA fecal sampling.

Leopard in dramatic photo traced to 2004 camera trap

Jul 19, 2012

A dramatic photo of a male leopard dragging a massive gaur (or Indian bison) calf in Karnataka's Bandipur Tiger Reserve turned out to be the same animal photographed by a WCS camera trap nearly eight years ...

Nepal launches census of Royal Bengal tiger

Feb 05, 2013

Hundreds of conservationists have begun a major survey of the number of endangered Royal Bengal tigers living in a vast forest region bordering Nepal and India, officials said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Invasive vines swallow up New York's natural areas

15 hours ago

(Phys.org) —When Antonio DiTommaso, a Cornell weed ecologist, first spotted pale swallow-wort in 2001, he was puzzled by it. Soon he noticed many Cornell old-field edges were overrun with the weedy vines. ...

Citizen scientists match research tool when counting sharks

Apr 23, 2014

Shark data collected by citizen scientists may be as reliable as data collected using automated tools, according to results published April 23, 2014, in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Gabriel Vianna from The University of Wes ...

Researchers detail newly discovered deer migration

Apr 23, 2014

A team of researchers including University of Wyoming scientists has documented the longest migration of mule deer ever recorded, the latest development in an initiative to understand and conserve ungulate ...

How Australia got the hump with one million feral camels

Apr 23, 2014

A new study by a University of Exeter researcher has shed light on how an estimated one million-strong population of wild camels thriving in Australia's remote outback have become reviled as pests and culled ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...