Ranchi, July 15: DNA fingerprinting would be used to determine if there are any tigers left in Palamau Tiger Reserve.
While the project authorities insist that there was a strong possibility of having approximately 30 tigers in the core area of the reserve, others say that there was none, as the striped beast had not been sighted recently.
The reserve recently started a project in collaboration with the Union science and technology ministry and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, to prepare DNA fingerprints of the tigers using scat samples.
The ministry has funded the project, which is being jointly implemented by the Central Zoo Authority and the centre.
According to sources in the forest department, 10 samples from the reserve had been sent about 15 days ago and many more would be sent shortly. They have already collected six-seven more samples from other areas which to be sent to Hyderabad.
This new initiative is a result of the controversy developed in the past two years on the actual number of big cats in the reserve.
A team of the centre accompanied by zoo authority experts would visit the dense forests of Betla after the monsoon to collect and analyse more samples. This would give a clearer picture based on scientific evidence and would also specify the number of male, female and cub tigers. It would also specify the genetic diversity if any, said principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) A.K. Singh.
A recent study and a tiger monitoring report prepared by field director of Palamau Tiger Reserve in 2007 indicated that the pug marks revealed existence of only 17 tigers. Nearly one-third of the park could not be accessed for pug marks or other signs because of rebel presence in the area.
Singh said that this had been the study of only 17 census beats whereas in total there were 30 beats. According to a rough estimate, the principal chief conservator of forests said that the number of cats in Palamau Tiger Reserve could easily be 30 or more.
“But a correct picture could be obtained only after a few months when the scientific study is complete.”
The remaining 13 tigers in dense forests — affected by Naxalite activities — could not be spotted and no census could be carried out there.
The last census done by the department in 2005 using the same traditional pug mark method had placed the number between 34 and 38.
However, the Wildlife Institute of India, in its latest report, had said that the reserve has not reported any tiger sightings during the phase I of its national survey.
“Our officials, rangers, trackers and tourists to Palamau had located tigers in recent times. In fact, they have also recorded it in the visitors’ register kept at the guesthouse,” said Singh.