A massive survey and conservation effort for tigers in India sets an example that Australia should follow, a University of Newcastle conservation specialist says.
Associate Professor Matthew Hayward said tiger conservation was crucial to the human capacity to "conserve the planet's biodiversity".
"If we can't save tigers, I fear nothing but foxes, cats, rats and sparrows will survive humanity," Dr Hayward said.
He said India holds the vast majority of tigers left in the world. Its survey showed tiger numbers had risen by 6 per cent a year since 2014.
"The global estimate from 2015 was between 2154 and 3159 adults left - so an increase in India is massively important," he said.
Indian scientists responsible for the tiger census hosted Dr Hayward at the Wildlife Institute of India.
"They showed us how they analysed 35 million camera trap photos using machine-learning methods," he said.
These camera traps covered almost 90 per cent of tiger zones in India.
"They identified each tiger by way of pattern-matching software," he said.
Dr Hayward also went to the Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary, where scientists explained how the data was collected in the field.
"Since then, I've prepared a report for the Indian government on my perceptions of the methods of the tiger survey," he said.
As charismatic carnivores, tigers get a large share of conservation funding.
"The hope of the Indian government and conservationists is that, by protecting tigers, we protect their landscapes and other species that live in those landscapes," he said.
"Tigers are hoped to be an umbrella species in this regard."
However, there was increasing evidence that the rise in tiger numbers had led to a decline in "some of the smaller carnivores, like caracal, jungle cat, Indian wolves and jackals".
"We need large landscapes conserved that offer refuge areas for these smaller species where they can escape top-down persecution from apex predators."
A key factor behind the rise in tiger numbers is a decline in poaching.
"While this has directly benefited tigers, it has also increased the amount of prey available for tigers.
"More available food means a site can sustain more tigers."
He said the Indian government had a policy of "moving villages out of national parks by offering money and land if the entire village moves".
This controversial policy has helped tigers.
"A rise in law enforcement, staff to monitor wildlife and large numbers of rangers spending time in the field also helped."
He said the methods used for tiger conservation in India should be used for leopards and jaguars.
They could also be applied in Australia with quolls, for example.
"We should do it if we're serious about conservation," he said.
He said Australia could do much better with its conservation efforts.
"There are a multitude of things we could and should do," he said.
"Investing in conservation is a start, coupled with valuing the ecosystem services the environment provides."
These services were "ignored as externalities in our economic system".
"The first step to reversing the decline is to adequately fund conservation agencies and get agency staff living on site in protected areas," he said.
"We could solve the mammal extinction crisis by creating mainland islands across the country."
This would involve fenced areas where foxes, cats, rabbits and house mice have been eradicated.
Australia's shocking record of fauna extinction is a national disgrace, Dr Hayward said.
"There is no doubt Australia is performing horrendously with regard to our conservation outcomes.
"Even worse is that our biodiversity is so unique and mostly not found anywhere else in the world."
A Senate report said Australia had "one of the world's worst records for the extinction and lack of protection for threatened fauna".
It said Australia was ranked second in the world, behind Indonesia, for "ongoing biodiversity loss".
Most people weren't aware of the problem, Dr Hayward said. He added that Australia had a lack of protection for threatened fauna.
"We are letting them go extinct with barely the bat of an eyelid," he said.
"It makes me mad that our national, natural heritage is being driven extinct and most people have never heard of the species disappearing.
"It breaks my heart that my kids struggle to see any native wildlife when we go into national parks."
He said the Hunter was "reflective of Australia as a whole".
That is, it is dominated by land clearing in areas that were once dense with biodiversity.
He believes more exposure and research is needed.
"We see more overseas wildlife on TV than Australian wildlife. People do not know how amazing our wildlife is. It would be great to see the ABC natural history unit reopened."
He said the Australian Research Council provided "more money to creative writing and religious studies than it does to applied conservation research".