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Fresh tiger census in the offing 



The Hindu, March 30, 2009

New Delhi (PTI): An year after "scientifically" estimating the big cats' population at nearly 1,411 in the country, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is gearing up to revise the head count by conducting a fresh census later this year.

To be conducted in association with Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), likely from October, the census methodology will be similar to that conducted in the previous count when camera traps were extensively used which were considered to be accurate.

"Like last census, this time too scientific assessment of the population will be done, thus giving us a comparative data, indicating decline or rise in number of the tigers in reserves spread across the country," sources in the environment ministry told PTI.

The NTCA, monitoring Tiger Project in the country, early last year had released a report 'Status of Tigers, Co-predators, and Prey in India 2008' painting a grim picture of tiger population at 1,411 with variation of 17.43 per cent, the lower limit stands at 1,165 and the upper limit at 1,657.

"A team of 88,000 forest staff and 50 field biologists led by WII had carried out the census within the span of two years begining 2006. However, this time the task is likely to be executed maximum within six months covering almost all the tiger landscapes," the sources said.

Modalities are being prepared to train the officials to carry out the exercises which is quiet elaborate but considered to be accurate.

Till 2003, pugmark spottings were used to determine tiger population, which is considered unscientific. Also, data was said to be systematically fabricated to show an increasing trend in population.

But it was the first time in 2008 that the WII census used actual tiger sightings using camera traps, pugmarks and faeces for the tiger count.

Detailing the scientific methodology adopted in the last census in distribution ranges of the predator's prey, the report said, "Robust statistical approaches like mark-recapture and distance sampling to estimate absolute densities of tigers and their prey were used.

"Covariate information was generated using remotely sensed data and attribute data using GPS."

Since submission of the report several steps have been taken to boost population of the royal predator including declaring tiger reserves as critical tiger habitat as well increasing relocation package from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10lakh.

On the darker side, there have been alarming reports of tigers deaths from reserves like Kaziranga and Kanha and man-animal conflicts from other areas.


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