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You too can help count the big cat (Oct)

The Times of India , Friday, October 11, 2013

 BANGALORE: With the National Tiger Census scheduled to begin in December first week, the state forest department is all geared up to count the big cats, and you can be part of this exercise. A team of forest officials from the state is being trained in Periyar, Kerala, ahead of Phase I in which the mammoth task of ground data collection will begin using the eight-day protocol.

Forest officials from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are also part of this training. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden GS Prabhu told TOI this census will be done in four phases. While Phase I is all about ground data collection, the other phases comprise generation of landscape and related indices, camera traps, distance sampling, computing densities and sectional analysis.

The new feature of this census is that satellite imaging will be used to map tiger sightings. "Geographical Information System will help us better understand the number of animals in any forest division," he added.

Forest officials said the tiger population in the state in the last census of 2010 was around 300 and it's considered stable. "We hope the number hasn't gone down. We want to finish ground data collection in the first week of December which is considered the right time for the census. This is because waterholes are spread across the forest divisions following the retreat of the monsoon," officials said

Be part of census

PCCF (wildlife) Prabhu said modalities of involving NGOs and volunteers from the public domain for the tiger census will be discussed at a meeting towards this month-end. "We'll decide on the venues for ground data collection based on which the required number of volunteers will be decided. After that, we'll call for volunteers to register with us for the census. We plan to involve volunteers from the official training stage so that they get more knowledge before they hit the field," he added.

The census is done by the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun in association with the state forest department.