male tigers
March 10, 2015

Photos offer first-ever evidence of male tigers as family men

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - @ParkstBrett

Male Amur tigers are generally thought to live a solitary existence; however, a new series of photographs released by the Wildlife Conservation Society has revealed a family of wild Amur tigers with an adult male with family.

The photos are from a camera trap slideshow and they reveal the “tiger dad" passing through a Russian forest along with an adult female and three cubs. Researchers note this is the first observation this kind of social behavior. The WCS also released a photo composite of a sequence of images showing the whole family as they wandered past the camera trap over the course of two minutes.

tiger dad takes stroll with family

Photo composite of images showing Amur tiger family, led by adult male, as they walk past camera trap over a period of two minutes.. (Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society)

“Although WCS's George Schaller documented sporadic familial groups of Bengal tigers as early as the 1960s, this is the first time such behavior has been photographed for Amur tigers in the wild,” said Dale Miquelle, the director of WCS Russia. “These photos provide a small vignette of social interactions of Amur tigers, and provide an evocative snapshot of life in the wild for these magnificent animals."

Male tigers are family men

The photos are the product of a 2014-2015 project that set up a network of camera traps across both Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve and Udegeiskaya Legenda National Park in Russia. The goal of the project is to obtain a better understanding on the population of endangered Amur tigers in the area. Although outcomes are still being evaluated, the biggest surprise was the series of 21 photographs that exhibited the tiger family.

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"We have collected hundreds of photos of tigers over the years, but this is the first time we have recorded a family together. These images confirm that male Amur tigers do participate in family life, at least occasionally, and we were lucky enough to capture one such moment."

Unsure of numbers

The precise population of Amur tigers is difficult to determine. Every decade an ambitious survey is executed that involves hundreds of researchers, hunters, and participants. The results of the latest survey, carried out in February 2015, will be unveiled by summer. In 2005, the last time a range-wide study of Amur tigers was carried out, it was determined there were about 430 to 500 tigers left in the wild.

One WCS-backed study published last month revealed that “index-calibration” method, which includes the use of camera traps, may not be as accurate as previously thought. The study authors cautioned against relying too much on this method and suggested using a different method moving forward.

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“This study exposes fundamental statistical weaknesses in the sampling, calibration and extrapolations that are at the core of methodology used by the Government to estimate India’s numbers, thus undermining their reliability,” said study author Ullas Karanth, from the WCS and a member of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority. We are not at all disputing that tigers numbers have increased in many locations in India in last 8 years, but the method employed to measure this increase is not sufficiently robust or accurate to measure changes at regional and country wide levels.”

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