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One of the most reliable tools to count tigers is the use of camera traps. The camera is set up with a remote trigger along routes exploited by tigers. When the tiger triggers an infra-red detector, the camera takes a shot.

At the moment, budget constrained conservation agencies are still using film cameras. The reason is quite simple. Cheap compact digital cameras might seem attractive but suffer badly from shutter-lag. This means the tiger isn’t in range when the image is finally recorded. The strictly mechanical shutters of film cameras work much faster. And you need lots of camera traps- usually deployed at 100-200 locations, each with 2 cameras.

The big reason camera traps work is because each individual tiger has a unique pattern of stripes. The stripes in effect, act like a highly visible fingerprint. The old and popular approach of using pug marks (tiger tracks) to estimate numbers has been shown to be very unreliable.