Population status of tigers (Panthera tigris) in a primary rainforest of peninsular Malaysia
University of Florida
Ecology and conservation of tigers (Panthera tigris) are least known from the Indochinese region largely due to the difficulty of studying elusive, forest-dwelling animals that occur naturally at low densities. The paucity of basic information is a major obstacle to developing an effective conservation strategy in this region. Using camera-trapping techniques and capture-recapture population estimation models, this study provided the first statistically valid model-based density estimates of tigers in Taman Negara National Park, the most important conservation area in Peninsular Malaysia. Three study sites of approximately 200 km2 each in the lowland primary rainforest were sampled between 1999 and 2001. It took over 14,000 trap nights to accumulate 35 photographic captures of tigers or 61 tiger photos, which constituted 1.3% of the total wildlife photos. Estimated densities ( ) of adult tigers ranged from 1.10 ± 0.52 to 1.98 ± 0.54 tigers/100 km2. The differences were not significant (X2 = 1.56, df = 2, P = 0.46) with the overall mean estimate of 1.66 ± 0.21 tigers/100 km2 (n = 3). The tiger population in the park was roughly estimated to be 68 (95% CI: 52-84) adult tigers or 91 (95% CI: 70-112) adults and cubs. No evidence of poaching of large mammals was found in the study sites. At the perceived minimal level of poaching, the Taman Negara?s tiger population appears to be viable for at least SE X ±vii 100 years. The photographic data were used to make a crude inference on available prey biomass. The estimates ranged from 266 to 428 kg/km2, and wild boars (Sus scrofa) were the most important potential prey species in both abundance and biomass. Although the method to estimate prey biomass was crude with the underlying assumptions untested, the result was as expected of a typical primary rainforest. Three major sources of possible human impacts on the tiger-prey community in Taman Negara are aborigines, tourists, and poachers. A negative correlation between level of human traffic and abundance of large mammals was observed, but overall impacts on the tiger-prey community appear to be minimal in Taman Negara as a whole.