Dec 21, 2013
The third synchronized all India tiger census that is held once in every four years will begin on Monday. For the next seven days, wildlife activists and forest lovers will traverse tiger habitats across the country and collect images and pug marks of big cats. Volunteers and forest staff would do carnivore sign survey, prey species encounter rate, habitat evaluation and vegetation quantification as part of the census operation. During data collection, ‘indirect signs’ like pug marks, scats, race marks, skin remains, and sighting of the animal as well as its sound would be recorded. According to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) figures, the Western Ghats range in Tamil Nadu reported 76 tigers in the 2006 census whereas the count went up to 163 in 2010. At present, there are four tiger reserves in the state including Mudumalai, Anamalai, Kalakkad-Mundanthurai and Sathyamangalam. There is talk of declaring Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Sanctuary, which is contiguous with the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, as a tiger sanctuary. As per NTCA, there are over 1,700 tigers in India and Tamil Nadu is home to 163 of them. In 2010, 56 big cats were reported to be living in the Mudumalai reserve, up from 39 in the 2006 census. The rising tiger population is a cause for cheer since the tiger count reflects the health of the forest. A rising tiger population indicates that all’s well with its habitat including the prey base. The tiger population is rising in the southern states including Tamil Nadu and tiger conservation in this region has been deemed a success. However, wildlife enthusiasts are disappointed that the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve does not plan to engage volunteers in the census operation. “Since the past two years, we conduct tiger census twice a year with camera traps. Over 150 cameras have been installed within the MTR reserve. The cameras will be shifted periodically to different beats in the reserve and the images captured are saved and analyzed”, said a forest official. Apart from the routine census, MTR will also be conducting the synchronized all India tiger census as per the guidelines of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). According to official sources, since MTR holds tiger census twice a year, the reserve doesn’t need more stress in this census. “The camera trap method is foolproof. Moreover, our forest officials and staff are well trained and they will take up the task. Hence we haven’t engaged volunteers in this census”, said an official. However, volunteers from NGOs, students of wildlife biology and from the forest college have been engaged by three forest divisions, namely north division, south division and Gudalur forest division in the Nilgiris. Over 45 volunteers have been engaged by the north division of the Nilgiri forests while 40 volunteers will participate in the count in the South division. There are about 45 beats in the north division of forests. “A volunteer accompanied by a forest guard and a forest watcher will be allotted a forest beat for census. However, two volunteers will be deployed in vulnerable areas,” said an official of north division. Of late, the north and south divisions of the Nilgiri forests has been noted for frequent sighting of tigers. It is estimated that about 20 to 22 tigers are present in the north division. According to a source in the south division of the Nilgiri forests, a forest staff sighted a cub with a mother and, in another instance, a trekking unit sighted three cubs with a mother in the past one month. The official added that sighting a tiger with cubs is an indication that all’s well with the forest. Tourist spots such as Cairnhill and Avalanche in the Nilgiris will be closed to visitors during the census operation.
As Posted in TOi