‘Paws’ for thought

Whether you’re a holidaymaker with an adventurous streak or you’re looking for the ultimate wildlife experience, safaris are seeing a global rise in popularity. India, especially, has reported steady growth in tourism, with more than 10 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2017 alone.

For inhabitants of India, living among wild animals means it is paramount to look for and recognise paw prints – otherwise known as pugmarks. It’s not just about knowing your taji from your tiger tracks, it can mean the difference between life and death.

To raise awareness of its Living with Tigers campaign, Born Free has compiled a guide to help people spot and identify animals while on safari in India.

TIGER

· The pugmark of a tiger is large and widespread
· The mark has a paw pad and four toes, with no visible claw marks
· The pugmark of a female tiger is more elongated than a male tiger’s.

LEOPARD

· Like a tiger, the pugmark of a leopard has a paw pad and four toes, with no visible claw marks
· However, the pugmark of a leopard is smaller than that of a tiger
· It is also more compact, with the pad and toes much closer together.

WILD AND DOMESTIC DOG

· Dog pugmarks also have a paw pad and four toes
· However, unlike tigers and leopards, claw marks will be clearly visible in front of each toe
· Dog pugmarks are also smaller than both theleopard and tiger.

SLOTH BEAR

· The pugmark of a sloth bear has a paw pad, but – unlike tigers, leopards, and dogs – five toes
· A claw mark will also be visible in front of each toe
· The pugmark of a sloth bear’s front paw has a smaller pad mark than that of its hind paws. The pad mark of a hind paw is also elongated.

Howard Jones, CEO of Born Free, commented: “Whilst we have created this guide as a fun way for tourists to engage with wildlife on their Indian safaris, there is also a serious message here – local communities live alongside wildlife, including tigers, every day, and need to know if a large carnivore is nearby. It’s initiatives like our Living with Tigers campaign where – thanks to public support – we can employ Tiger Ambassador teams who regularly patrol areas and are trained to identify pugmarks.”

Poonam Dhanwatey, Co-Founder of the Tiger Research and Conservation Trust (TRACT), part of Born Free’s Living with Tigers programme, added:

“It’s important for people to know if there’s a tiger or leopard close to their village. They inform the forest guard and our TRACT team, which then share information with the local community. They tell them there’s presence of a large carnivore close to the village, so they need to be alert when they come into the forest area.”

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