News / Science & Technology

To Avoid Humans, Tigers Take Night Shift

A tiger’s eyes glow during the night on the same foot paths and roads humans use during the day to collect wood and grasses. (Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University)
A tiger’s eyes glow during the night on the same foot paths and roads humans use during the day to collect wood and grasses. (Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University)
Rosanne Skirble
Tigers don’t have a reputation for being very accommodating, but a new study challenges the long-held conservation belief that these large carnivores need lots of people-free space.  

This new understanding is especially critical because, since the start of the 20th century, the tiger population has declined by 97 percent to approximately 3,000 worldwide largely due to loss of habitat from encroaching cities and agriculture.  

Captured on camera

Michigan State University graduate student Neil Carter set up motion-detecting camera traps in and around Nepal’s Chitwan National Park to study human-tiger interaction.

The park, nestled in a valley of the Himalayas and protected by army patrols, is home to about 120 tigers.
Tiger Conservation
Tiger Conservationi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


But the area is home to people, too. Tourists visit the park and local villagers live on its periphery, where tigers also roam.  

Carter says the cameras, at 80 different sites, captured intense activity inside and outside the park.  

“What we started seeing was tigers were everywhere, people were everywhere and obviously they could not have been in the exact same places at the exact same time because there will be reports of all kinds of conflicts, left and right," he says. "So what we ended up discovering was that the tigers were displacing their time and becoming more active at night instead of during the day.”

Switch to night shift
 
While tigers typically move around at any time of the day or night, the camera images show that the vast majority of the big cats were more active at night, even roaming outside the park on the same dirt roads and narrow footpaths used by humans. Carter was surprised to find the tigers shifted their activities in time, but not space, despite such intense human presence. 

  • Chitwan National Park, at the foot of the Himalayas in Nepal, is famous for its tigers. Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • Michigan State University PhD student Neil Carter readies equipment for field work to study human tiger interaction. Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • Crossing into Chitwan National Park, the first National Park of Nepal and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • Researchers check out trails for locations to install motion-detecting camera traps. Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • Neil Carter straps cameras on trees along footpaths and narrow roads inside and outside the park . Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • Each camera trap uses two cameras to capture both sides of a tiger, as each cat's stripes are unique and are used to identify them. Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • While tigers roam at all times of day, most tigers in study area had switched to hunting, mating and monitoring their territory at night. Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • Typically shy, tigers stay away from humans by choice. Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • A tiger’s eyes glow during the night on the same foot paths and roads that humans use during the day to collect wood and grasses. Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University.
  • A pair of tigers rest safely at night on a trail that is patrolled during the day to guard against poaching . Credit: Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University.


“There was no relationship between the number of vehicles or people or even different types of people. Tigers were there. They were everywhere. They were widespread and ubiquitous and also the prey, their prey, was really abundant," he says. "And so that I think is really sort of the critical link. Tigers are not going to leave an area that has their food.”

New hope for endangered wildlife

Carter says the results of the study could change conservation management, especially since about 80 percent of tiger habitat is now dominated by humans.  He says the key will be to figure out what conditions foster the co-existance the study documents.

“We want to see if we can duplicate that in all these multiple use forests and areas where tigers occur, but people also depend on those forests.”

Carter says the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows promise that humans and wildlife can thrive in the same environment, but that more work must be done to understand the complicated connection between the two worlds.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Atsuko
September 11, 2012 2:55 AM
I think that human life is more important than wildlife.

by: Thy from: Vietnam
September 10, 2012 4:38 PM
Humans and tigers are living in the same planet, aren't they?

by: Rob Robertson from: Canada
September 09, 2012 11:19 AM
After reading this story I come to the conclusion that both humans and tigers need the forest to exist. My solution would be to plant more trees.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More