It’s good news for tigers! A pioneering study conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) suggests the endangered big cats are holding their own even outside of protected areas in India.

The WCT study revealed the presence of 48 adult tigers living in regions outside the Protected Areas of the country's Chandrapur District in the state of Maharashtra. That pushes the total number of tigers in the district up to 120, including 72 cats that live inside Maharashtra's Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, the state's oldest and largest national park.

Dubbed the most intensive camera-trapping exercise ever carried out in the region, the study surveyed 2,000 square kilometres (772 square miles) of tiger habitat that falls outside of the Protected Area network.

Tiger Camera Trap 2015 05 29
Conservation group Panthera donated over 600 camera traps for the survey, which revealed a healthy population of tigers living outside of protected areas in India's Maharashtra state. 

“We identified 20 breeding tigresses, which is a positive sign of the health of this multiple-use-landscape. Our findings have highlighted how important it is for protection nets to extend beyond protected areas,” says WCT researcher Aditya Joshi of the landmark study.

Maharashtra is a thriving region with 110 million inhabitants, so monitoring human-tiger conflict here is vitally important. Encouragingly, WCT president Anish Andheria points out that the high density of tigers in some parts of the region's forests indicates that people are learning to live alongside these iconic predators. “The presence of tigers in such densities in human-dominated landscapes speaks volumes about the tolerance of the [local] people and the good work put in by the [region's] forest department.”

The survey has also revealed that in some areas of the forest, tiger density is actually higher than that seen in protected reserves in India. “This study has proved that humans and tigers can share a landscape,” Andheria adds. “However, the future of large carnivores outside national parks and sanctuaries will depend on the efficiency of the forest department in mitigating human-animal conflict and an increased awareness among humans about tiger behaviour.”

Top header image: Christopher Kray, Flickr