This Zoological Society of London (ZSL) project provided information for tiger conservation management and focused on tiger ecology in semi- or unprotected and commercial landscapes.
In 2005 ZSL studied local-scale tiger ecology through radio tracking from an oil palm plantation base and to begin widening the scope of the project through the development of rapid surveying techniques for application in other areas. Tragically, the radio tracking attempt of 2005 ended with the death of a tiger. Consequently, all capture efforts have been put on hold. In 2006 the project attempts to take stock and learn from the experience.
For wider ecological studies, ZSL continued with the rapid surveys initiated in 2005 collaborating with WCS to fit the local survey work into the first stages of a national tiger and elephant survey.
2006 saw the results of the rapid survey carried out in the province of Jambi, Sumatra after research during 2003-04 showed that tiger number in the area around an oil palm plantation were in decline. The aim of the survey was to provide a rapid assessment of the status of tigers, other large mammals and human disturbance within a landscape of commercial activities.
The survey showed that tigers and other species of conservation concern still existed in the commercially-dominated landscape but that the role of the oil palm plantation concession as species habitat was greatly reduced compared to previous years, probably due to large increase in human activity in the set aside conservation areas. However, the low occupancy levels show the local tiger population was in extremely poor shape and occupying a fraction of the area previously though to be occupied.
Distribution of key prey species suggest prey availability was not a key concern leaving direct human activity (poaching or land disturbance) as the more likely reasons. The survey was a important step in the development of rapid survey methods. Key points learned were the importance of repeated surveys, their suitability for more detectable species, and the need for large sample sizes to allow modelling of likely explanatory factors. These points will be incorporated into further rapid surveys to be conducted at the same and additional sites in the future.