In 2008, Courtney Dunn to be an intern in ~ the nationwide Tiger Sanctuary in Chestnutridge, Missouri, wherein she provided educational tours, taught visitors about the plight of large cats in the wild, and also bonded through a Bengal tiger called Tina. “Tina come from Texas, whereby someone had her together a pet,” Dunn says. “Oddly, enough, there are more tigers in the state of Texas alone 보다 there are almost everywhere in the wild.”

Decades that hunting, habitat destruction, and also poaching have actually decimated tiger populations worldwide, and according come the human being Wildlife Foundation, only around 3,890 wild tigers remain. 3 tiger subspecies—the Javan, the Bali, and also the Caspian tiger—have totally vanished. 

After working v Tina for part time, Dunn noticed the the big cat’s vocalizations sound different based on whether the pet was connecting with other tigers or v her, and she started to wonder what other details a tiger’s vocalizations might reveal.

Dunn began recording and assessing the calls of the sanctuary’s tigers, and also made some amazing discoveries—for example, that tigers communicate with each various other by making a sound comparable to a cow’s moo. “It’s more than likely the closest point a tiger has to a meow, yet it just sounds an extremely deep, as tigers space obviously much larger animals,” Dunn says. She also found the to greet one one more (or their human being keepers), tigers do a unique noise referred to as a prusten, or chuff, by keeping their mouths closed while advertise air with their nostrils. And, she to be amazed to check out that on a spectrogram, many tigers vocalizations in reality look similar to tiger stripes. Her research study led she to hypothesize that tiger groans, chuffs, and also roars were unique enough come individual pets that they could be supplied to identify and also count tigers in a offered population, and also impart other crucial information. 

In 2016, Dunn, now a zoologist in ~ the Dallas people Aquarium, started the nonprofit The Prusten Project. She sent her study to Think because that Tigers, one Oxford-funded organization that to be scouring the globe for fix up ideas, products, and also solutions the might help researchers and rangers locate, track, and monitor the dwindling populace of many tigers in the wild. With scientists from the college of Oxford WildCRU and staff members indigenous World pet Protection, Dunn spent 10 job in India in ~ the Pench Tiger Reserve. It to be her an initial time observing tigers in the wild. The team sought pawprints in the dirt and also followed them with their jeep. “The forests aren’t the way people often photo jungles v tigers. They’re generally dry through a many tall grass and also thinned out patches that tree,” she says. So as soon as prey animals, choose Sambar deer or Langur monkeys, “called ‘tiger! tiger!’ wednesday follow that sound till we reached one.”

Once Dunn was ago in the states, The Prusten job teamed up v 21 zoos and animal sanctuaries. They inserted song-meters—tiny eco-friendly boxes it is provided by D-sized batteries and also four memory cards—in the enclosures that captive bengal, sumatran, malayan, and also amur tigers to document their 27-29 2nd long calls, i beg your pardon researchers uncovered to convey the most essential data. Recordings cover a 144-hour duration and are sifted through and deciphered through researchers and volunteers using Raven Pro, sound evaluation software arisen by the Cornell laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, new York. 

The outcomes so far? simply by listening to a tiger’s lengthy call, Dunn says, scientists deserve to determine the animal’s age, weight, and also sex through a 97 percent accuracy.

“Our research is revolutionizing the way tigers are studied and also protected,” Dunn says.

In the field, song-meters could help researchers determine essential information favor whether yes sir a healthy breeding population—tigers reach sexual maturity at three to six years the age. And if a big cat walk missing, researchers deserve to dig into the sound-meter’s data to uncover out when and where it was last spotted, and also even what time of work it was, based on the sound of diurnal or nocturnal animals. 


Tracking tigers by their vocalizations could aid researchers stop the pitfalls of traditional tracking methods. Tigers have 32-square-mile territories—a large chunk that land to scour because that footprints or other signs of the large cats. If researchers depend on intuitive cues alone, yes a an excellent chance that they’ll counting an separation, personal, instance twice. Camera traps, with their glowing flash, can additionally be problematic. Poachers, who sell tiger components on the black market can quickly find and steal them. Sound-meters “blend in yes, really well with the landscape,” Emily Ferlemann, The Prusten Project’s director of research says. And also they can even assist park rangers and law enforcement finding the visibility of poachers. “They don"t have any type of sort the indicator, and also they"re constantly recording.” 

The team is additionally examining even if it is tiger vocalizations have the right to be offered to develop family lineage by placing sound meters in the enclosures of an extensive family of many tigers in zoos scattered about the USA—the family"s matriarch, Mai, was a three-legged, Malayan tiger that live at the Omaha Zoo. Research says that masculine tigers willingly share their prey with female tigers the have had actually their cubs, associated males, and—as long as they identify their scents—even males the have remained in the area before.

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Room tigers merely sniffing the end pheromones, or are they hear a family-specific call? If sound bites can affix a family’s lineage, Ferlemann says, it can have significant implications because that conservation initiatives in zoos and in the wild.