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Database of tigers caught on lens in offing

                                                                                                 The Pioneer, New Delhi, 22nd April, 2013
 
Following the adoption of refined protocols for intensive annual monitoring of source populations of tiger National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is now working towards establishing a country-wide database of wild tigers captured in camera trap surveys conducted by multiple research and Governmental institutions.

The database will be officially called National Repository of Camera Trap Photographs of Tigers (NRCTPT). According to experts it will also help in conservation decision making particularly in escalating cases of human-tiger conflict and to address burgeoning problem of poaching of tigers across the country.

According to sources in the NTCA, key objective of the exercise is to ensure that the rigorous protocols for assigning unique IDs are followed and that the origin of each camera-trapped tiger image is authenticated by responsible officials or scientists. This avoids the ‘contamination’ of the database through deliberate or accidental introduction of spurious tiger images of dubious origin.

A yet another objective is to ensure that photo capture dates and locations are entered accurately, to facilitate rigorous analyses of the data using spatially explicit capture-recapture models, as required by the new survey and estimation protocols already mandated by NTCA, said the sources.

It is anticipated that 1,400 individual tiger cameras trapped by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) surveys conducted after January 1, 2006 will form the initial core of the database. Subsequently, it is anticipated that the database will expand through active participation of other researchers conducting camera trap surveys.

Currently, the WCS database of tiger IDs in Karnataka has over 4,000 images of 600 individual tigers from multiple sources, which are used for rapid sharing of information with State Forest Department and NTCA in real time. It covers an area of 4,000 sq kms of prime tiger habitat in Karnataka.

Dr K Ullas Karanth, Tiger Expert, and Director for Science-Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society pointed out that the exercise will provide a baseline estimate of numbers each year thus tracking the population variations, and other basic data on status and losses and recruitment on an annual basis. Further,it permits recording of long distance movements and use of potential corridors etc, said Dr Karanth, is also the and Director, Centre for Wildlife Studies.

He added that after a tiger is killed, its age, identify, and origin can be traced by comparisons with the available data thus fixing responsibility in case of poaching. If any animal is captured or ends up in problem situation, accurate assessment of its age from previous capture history would be a critical piece of information for making decisions about its fate, he added.