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Census of Tigers Commences Today (Dec)

The New Indian Express, Tirunelveli 16th December, 2013

As the week-long enumeration of tiger census is set to start from December, tourism activities at the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) would be restricted from Monday, said Mita Banerjee, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director, KMTR.

According to Mita Banerjee, the phase 1 of the census of big cats, co-predators and prey at the KMTR would be undertaken between December 16 and 23 as part of the synchronized countrywide tiger estimation using the refined double sampling technique. The assessment would be simultaneously done on these dates in the four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Areas adjoining or contiguous with KMTR wherein the tiger estimation would be conducted are Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Theni, Madurai, Sivagangai, Ramanathapuram and  Kanyakumari and Srivilliputhur and Meghamalai Wildlife divisions.

The exercise would be carried out in  4 phases. Under the phase 1 an 8-day protocol for collecting ground date by the forest department personnel assisted by trained volunteers would be followed. The date collection process, include protocols for carnivore occupancy, prey abundance, human impacts on the habitat and habitat status. The data collected thus would then be analysed using a specialised software for the purpose to aid future management.

The protocol for carnivore occupancy includes looking for not only actual sightings of the animal, but also signs of carnivore presence such as scats, pug marks, claw marks,  vocalization, etc., be it of tiger, leopard , wild dog, jackal, sloth bear or other predators with the most intensive search in areas most likely to be occupied by tigers and leopards.

Ungulate (bison, sambar, chital, etch which forms the main prey base of carnivores) population estimation would be done while walking along a predated path  (transact) recording direct sightings and faecal pellet/dung enumeration separately.

Each transact would be traversed 3 times on 3 different days for direct sightings. Those transacts would be separately used to assess vegetation and anthropogenic disturbance levels while returning from ungulate survey.

Mita Banerjee said that in KMTR, 30 beats would be sampled by separate teams every day from December 17 to 21 after a preliminary orientation programme for volunteers/ NGOs and press photographers on December 16. During the period of population estimation, tourism activities inside KMTR would be strictly regulated

This  exercise would be followed in future by phase II which consists of use of remotely sensed data and phase III with use of camera traps and distance sampling for computing densities of tigers and ungulates by expert teams from Wildlife Institute of India.

Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve officials said from Monday onwards tourists would not be allowed inside KMTR in view of the tiger census.

The check posts at the reserve would be closed.

However,  devotees would be allowed as special cases, they added.

A similar census, which is a nationwide exercise, will be carried out in the Mudumalai tiger reserve and Anamalai Tiger reserve during the same period, officials said and added that tourism related activities will also be restricted like in other sanctuaries.