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Big cat census: After 3 years, state to count its tigers (Oct)

Deccan Chronicle, Bangaluru, 5th October, 2013

Three years ago, Karnataka was credited for having the highest concentration of tigers in the country. The Forest Department is about to embark on another tiger census to see if the state still has that pre-eminent position.

About 1,000 forest officials and volunteers from the general public will participate in the first phase of the tiger census which will begin in December.

Training for forest officials in the southern states will begin on October 9 in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala. About 26 officers including RFOs from Karnataka will participate in the three-day training camp.

PCCF G. S. Prabhu, chief wildlife warden of the State said that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has directed the tiger states to conduct the census before December. Some other states have also been advised to conduct the census at the same period to avoid duplication in counting.

“The census will be carried out in five tiger reserves in the state in December, over a period of eight days. The volunteers will record direct sightings and signs of tigers in the Line-Transact method. In the second phase, the data collected by the volunteers will be recorded. The third phase of tiger monitoring will begin in early 2014 using camera traps,” Prabhu said.

Noted tiger biologist, Dr Ullas Karanth, said that tigers are an endangered species and viable populations are now concentrated in a few key nature reserves, which occupy less than one per cent of India’s land.

“Given the pressures, threats and rapid population turnover rates natural to tigers, these populations need to be monitored closely using the best possible sampling methods,” Dr Karanth said.

He said the camera-trap based survey methods are improving rapidly and gaining wide acceptance not just for tigers but for other animals as well. Equally exciting have been the developments in statistical modelling, estimation and infer­ence in  recent years, which makes the best use of the photos collected using camera traps.

“We will assist the Karnataka Government to strengthen the state tiger photographic data base and wherever more advanced protocols are applied, it will assist the government in implementing them,” he said