Wild Tiger Health Project
Created by Dr John C M Lewis

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Tiger response plans

Tiger Response Plans: In responding to conflict, the first task of any Tiger Response Team (TRT) is to investigate the reported incident and confirm a tiger that was responsible. Once satisfied, the next step is to decide on an appropriate course of action. Whilst this must be decided on a case by case basis, decisions are best not made arbitrarily. Instead they should be based on set criteria, within a pre-agreed framework, as part of a “Tiger Response Plan” (e.g’s: Barlow et al, 2010; Goodrich, 2010; Nugraha & Sugardjito, 2009). Karanth & Gopal (2005) provide a general framework for development of tiger response plans, and further details can be found in Goodrich (2010). Any plan should be developed in close consultation with conservation groups, local stakeholders and community representatives. The threshold for each action will inevitably vary between sites, reflecting the local geography, perceived risk and community tolerance levels. Appropriate responses in densely populated and fragmented Sumatra may not be the same as that required in the Russian Far East, for example. Unfortunately few countries have clear tiger response plans.

A Tiger Response Plan is not simply an exercise in paperwork or bureaucracy. People that have recently experienced conflict are often distressed, angry and scared. As a result, responding staff are likely to encounter significant pressure to escalate their response and simply remove a problem animal. Developing a plan in advance supports responding TRTs by providing them with clear framework for decision making, and ensures responses are consistent, fair and in line with community expectations.

Decision trees or flow diagrams within Tiger Response Plans provide clarity in formulating and communicating the plan. They have a dynamic character – outlining response options as a conflict situation changes. At the same time, the limited text and graphic format make them clear, accessible and highly transparent. Different decision trees are needed for different types of conflict – incursions into human habitation, attacks on livestock and attacks on people. Examples of these decision trees can be found here:

Important factors to consider are: What has happened? Where has it happened? Is this a one-off incident or part of pattern of behaviour? Is there evidence to suggest the animal responsible is injured or unwell? The ultimate goal is to keep tigers in the wild wherever possible. However, this must be balanced against the threat to human life and increased risk of retaliatory killings.

Finding the tiger responsible for conflict can be problematic. For example in the Corbett Tiger Reserve in India baiting has been found found to be ineffective, and although camera traps and pugmark tracking is useful, tracking on trained elephants is considered the most effective (Dr Dushyant Sharma – pers. comm).

Examples of Tiger Response Plans are given here: