Census to revise tiger head count
31 Mar 2009, 0251 hrs IST, PTI
NEW DELHI: A 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 said.
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%, 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 beginning 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.