More prying eyes to track Big Cats

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More prying eyes to track Big Cats

Express News Service
First Published : 25 Jul 2009 04:28:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 25 Jul 2009 10:51:47 AM IST

BHUBANESWAR: With tiger enumeration remaining a contentious issue, Orissa is all set to seek 100 pairs of cameras specifically designed for tiger census from the Centre when Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh meets tiger reserve heads at a significant stock-taking on Saturday.

Dwindling tiger numbers and deteriorating condition of habitats prompted the Centre to assess the issue and if necessary, the Ministry has already gone on record saying each State will have to sign an MoU for tiger protection.

Earlier, the State Government and the Centre had come face-to-face over the number of tigers in Similipal. The camera-trap method employed by Wildlife Institute of India put the number at 20 during 2006-08 against 95 projected by Wildlife Wing which uses pugmark methodology, now seemingly getting outdated because of a higher standard error. A more recent assessment by the State had put the figure at 72 while earlier this month, the Rajya Sabha was informed by Ramesh that it could just be 60.

The State apparently wants to get rid of the controversies and would ask for 100 pairs of cameras for installation in Similipal during Saturday’s meeting. The cameras, which WII used for its enumeration, are specifically designed by Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.

“This way, we could employ improved enumeration technology at our end while verification by the Centre would be easy since the samples would be available for cross-checking,’’ sources said. In fact, cost of a pair of cameras would be just about Rs 1 lakh and if the Centre agrees, it would have to shell out Rs 1 crore.

Given the recent Maoist attacks, the State would also present its demand for immediate raising of the tiger protection force at Similipal. The Centre had declared establishment of 13 such units at an estimated Rs 50 cr which was placed in 2008 General Budget but the force has not yet been raised.

The Forest Department of the State Government has proposed that State Police would be entrusted with the responsibility of raising and training the force which will comprise three platoons. These would be deployed at Upper Barahkamuda, Chahal and Jenabil. While modalities over raising the force had led to a friction between the Forest Department and the State Police, it has now been resolved.

The State Police will recruit and train the personnel for a year. Preference will be given to youth of Mayurbhanj.

The unit will be under the administrative control of the Field Director of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) but the District SP would be in charge of service-related responsibilities such as CCR.

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