Did you know that Wildtrack's Footprint Identification Technique (FIT) can be used to promote human-wildlife coexistence!

By Amy Fitzmaurice

The collaborative Living with Tigers Project run by Chester Zoo in collaboration with Green Governance Nepal (GGN), the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), Wildlife Conservation Research Unit Oxford University (WildCRU) and eight communities in the Terai Arc Landscape in Nepal, is using FIT to research Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) and leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) living alongside communities.

Why is this important?

Both felids and people utilise community bufferzone forests surrounding protected areas and this can result in human-wildlife encounters that can result in conflict, with impacts of both people and wildlife. Both tigers and leopards are threatened with extinct, but with tiger conservation efforts in Nepal becoming increasing success and with increasing human populations, there is a risk of increased human-wildlife encounters. Wildlife can sustain injury and stress, and can be removed into captivity or suffer fatalities from these conflicts. People can suffer from conflicts, from injuries, fatalities, impact of theirs and their families well-being and livelihoods. The Living with Tigers focusing on protecting both the felids and the people.

Why use FIT?

FIT is a non-invasive, low-cost method which can be developed into a community-based monitoring approach. It is simple technique for everyone to learn, meaning during a human-wildlife conflict event, if a footprint is found, that individual can be identified, their sex, their age and be monitored to reduce future conflicts.

Living with Tigers Project

During 2017 and 2018, we researched many community forests with local community members, that were given ecological training to improve or gain new skills. Many community forests had not been researched before. By working with local people, there is a sharing of knowledge. Local knowledge of wildlife, best trails to set cameras, to find footprint, is invaluable for projects. We collected over 250 wild tiger and leopard footprints and analysed them to identify individuals. We also conducted camera trapping, so that species information could be shared with the community forest user groups, who said that by knowing which wildlife they have in their forests, they can adapt their forest management to protect the forest for the wildlife and the people. We are working towards a community-based monitoring approach, where as a starting point, a tiger and leopard footprint database has already been set up with WildTrack, which will be continued to be added to.

If you wish to learn more about the Living with Tigers Project or donate to the project, please use these links below.







Interesting to know that individuals can be identified using foot prints. Since earlier studies have showed issues with pug mark based monitoring, just curious to know how you are overcoming these issues.


In the past (17-20 years ago), a paper from India came out to show that individual identification of tigers using pugmarks did not work. The method was to select prints and make plaster casts or tracings of the prints and then compare differences in shapes and measurements between the prints. STandardization of the process was not possible and human error was huge so this was deemed an inadequate method for identifying individuals, although species identification could be done as well as presence in an area. The current FIT methodology uses morphometrics (measurements of over 100 distances and angles) of footprint photos using computer-generated algorithms to identify species, sex, age class, and individuals from the prints alone. You can refer to the following paper on the FIT process for cheetah: https://wildtrack.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/JoVE-Cheetah-paper.pdf. We have already advanced in the use of new technology since 2016, and now collecting and submitting footprint photos are easily done using a smartphone app Epicollect5. Analyses of the photos are done in JMP, software from SAS. For more information, you can contact Zoe Jewell (WildTrack) through WildLabs or go to wildtrack.org.


Karin Schwartz, PhD

Scientific Coordinator of Ex Situ Partners