Yearly tiger census in Sunderbans on the cards
KOLKATA: Population dynamics of Sunderbans tigers may get to see a new light, with the Centre deciding to add another phase of study for a reliable and detailed assessment of number of big cats in the mangroves.
Sunderbans Tiger Reserve field director Subrat Mukherji, who attended a meeting with National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) andWildlife Institute of India (WII) officials in New Delhi on Thursday, said more sample sites would be included in the new phase. “Last time camera traps had been laid only across 100 sq km area near Netidhopani. In the new upgraded format, which will be an upgradation of phase III in last census, we have suggested three sample sites covering upper, middle and lower areas of Sunderbans.”
While cameras will be placed in Sajnekhali and Netidhopani in upper areas, in middle areas, Chamta and Katoajhuri will be ideal for camera traps. In lower areas, cameras can be set up at Kendo, Haldi and Baghmara, said Mukherji, adding that Centre will release approximately Rs 30-40 lakh for the exercise.
Meanwhile, WIIas YV Jhala said the Phase IV of tiger conservation will also be done in Sunderbans for a better conservation of the big cats. The introduction of this four-phase census implies that the big cats will be counted every year during a four-year period.
According to NTCA deputy inspector general (DIG) S P Yadav, the Phase IV census will begin this November and will continue till February in all tiger reserves including Sunderbans. “The state governments will conduct the exercise with technical and financial support from the Centre. This will be tiger reserve specific census while the one conducted in a gap of four years is landscape-specific census,” Yadav said.
The new protocol will use 25 pairs of double-sided cameras per 100 square kilometres, and a minimum trapping effort of 1000 trap nights per 100 square kilometres. This, according to a WII official, will give a yearly indication of the status of critical tiger populations, and will be helpful in long-term management and conservation of tiger populations. Distance sampling protocols may be used for prey population estimation.
It may be noted that during the latest census, 102 photos were taken in Sunderbans using camera traps recording presence of 12 different tigers a” 10 adult and two cubs.
Meanwhile, Mukherji said other issues discussed with NTCA members included technology transfer with Bangladesh and funding pattern. “We will visit Bangladesh soon to share the technology, to be used in phase IV of the census.”
The latest tiger census report said Indian Sunderbans has about 70 tigers, with the lower limit at 64 and upper at 90. “Since it was not possible to walk in the mangrove forests to record tiger sign encounter rates due to lack of proper animal trails and fear of tiger attacks, we used tidal channel searches. One hundred and twenty six boat transects were sampled across the entire reserve,” said an NTCA member. Officials from Buxa Tiger Reserve too attended the meet.