Radio collars for four Sunderbans tigers
12 Dec 2008, 0107 hrs IST, TNN
KOLKATA: After a failed attempt exactly a year ago, four Sunderbans tigers will once again be fitted with radio collars.
Powered by a new technology developed at Wild Life Institute, Dehradun, the new device promises to be better and tougher than the earlier one that got corroded by saline water and stopped functioning in less than four months. If successful, the collars could be one of the three methods used for a tiger census that is scheduled to start in the middle of 2009.
“Four big cats will be fitted with the device. The collars will arrive shortly and we shall start the installation immediately after that. We expect the new collars to be better suited for the Sunderbans environment. They should last long enough for us to be able to arrive at a fair idea about the home range of a Bengal tiger,” said Subrat Mukherjee, field director, Sunderban Tiger Reserve (STR).
In December 2007, a tigress was fitted with a collar. Forest officials had tracked the animal through satellite signals emitted from the device but it stopped working in March. The tracking period was not long enough to deduce the home range the average distance that a tiger covers. It indicates its area and is expected to throw light on the Sunderbans’ tiger population that has been a matter of debate since the last 2005 census that was scrapped.
The new collars have been specially designed to survive the salinity and the rugged terrain of the mangrove forest.
Arrangements are being made to identify and locate the big cats that will be tranquillized. The success of the collars could lead to the census that has been deferred for the last three years. A figure arrived at by using a software was rejected by the forest department in 2005. “This time, we will be using three methods pugmarks, radio collars and tiger DNA tests. The collar experiment is going to be a key. If successful, it should hasten the census,” added Mukherjee.