— Tigers use a grunt-like snort called chuffing as a greeting,
short roars for intimidation and long roars to find mates.
now trying to use those and other sounds tigers make to help
protect and boost their population in the wild.
called The Prusten Project, is the idea of Courtney Dunn, who
currently works at the Dallas World Aquarium as a senior mammal
keeper and has a master's degree in biology. Prusten is another
word for chuffing.
have discovered with our research is that tiger voices can be used
like a fingerprint for individuals, like a vocal fingerprint as
unique as you and I," Dunn said.
The first part of
the project involves using digital devices to record Bengal,
Malayan, Sumatran, and Amur tigers at zoos across the nation. Ten
zoos have already recorded tigers with at least another 10
planning to do so.
are using those recordings to build a computer program to help
identify specific tigers and determine more accurate population
numbers so that organizations know where to focus their protection
efforts. They can also listen in to see if any poaching activity
Dunn says they
also can distinguish between male and female sounds and knowing
that information will tell them if there is a healthy breeding
The project is
being paid for through the American Association of Zookeepers and
various zoological institutions throughout the country. The
University of Central Arkansas provided the initial grants, which
purchased the first recorders.
County Zoo recorded audio from four tigers, before they sent one
female off to another zoo to make room for possible offspring.
zookeepers, we get into this because we love animals and we love
conservation," said Amanda Ista, zookeeper in the big cats
area at the Milwaukee County Zoo. "To be part of a project
that is directly linked to conservation is a really cool thing for
Dunn said project
members plan to begin using the digital audio recorders in the
wild next year in India and possibly Indonesia and then other
According to the
World Wildlife Fund and Global Tiger Forum, there are nearly 3,900
wild tigers, mostly in Asia, compared with an estimated 3,200 in
helping their cousins in the wild, and right now tigers need the
help in the wild as much as they can get," Ista said.