Since 1972, the tiger has been the flagship species for biodiversity and wildlife conservation in India. As an apex predator, it helps keep the wild ungulate numbers in check, thus ensuring a balance of herbivores and the vegetation. The well-being of the tiger is hence equated to that of the ecosystem. India has led global efforts to save tigers, supporting the largest number of wild tigers today.
WCS-India applies science to saving tigers on the ground through extensive ecological surveys and conservation interventions. By developing and sharing innovative methodologies and conservation models, WCS-India has impacted tiger conservation efforts worldwide. The WCS-India team also provides active support to local communities passionate about conservation. Our goal is to restore a healthy prey population and secure corridors for wildlife.
Our scientific work started with a research project on tigers and their prey in Nagarahole during the late 1980s. While the initial work focused on prey-predator relationships, the critical link between large predator species and their prey, and the coexistence of multiple large predators at high densities in areas such as Nagarahole, from the early 1990s, there was an increased focus on assessments of population and demographic parameters.
WCS-India’s scientists have developed reliable methods to monitor tiger and prey populations, and used these to rigorously monitor tiger and prey population dynamics, starting in Nagarahole. The monitoring soon expanded to cover sites across the central Western Ghats, central India, western India and eastern India. WCS-India’s long-term database, derived mainly from our camera trap surveys, now includes nearly 1000 individual tigers. Methodological advances developed as part of this large-scale, long-term tiger and prey monitoring have since been adopted by scientists and managers worldwide, for a wide range of endangered species. Our recent work has examined how spatial and temporal associations between tigers, leopards and dholes change across a gradient of resource availability and human disturbance.
Currently, WCS-India is putting in place rigorous monitoring programmes for tigers and their prey in Amrabad Tiger Reserve, Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve and Gundla Brahmeswaram wildlife sanctuary in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which currently show low densities of both prey and tiger, but hold great potential for recoveries. We have shifted our focus from conducting monitoring of tiger and prey populations ourselves, to building capacity of state forest department staff, research institutions and civil society organisations to carry out reliable monitoring, allowing for the expansion of such monitoring to more sites than we could cover ourselves.