Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tiger census gets underway

Sunday, January 22, 2006 (Bandipur):


Following the shocking revelations in Sariska where the tiger population was completely wiped out due to wanton poaching, the government recently ordered a nationwide Tiger Census.


The census was carried out this week across the country's national parks and sanctuaries.


The NDTV team travelled to a national park in southern India, the Bandipur National Park, to find out how the census was different from the previous ones.


Last habitats


The national park was one of the last habitats of the Royal Bengal Tiger in the Niligiri Biosphere.


In the last census there were 80 tigers in the national park and this week 260 forest officials and over a 100 volunteers are combing the entire forest for the latest Tiger Census.


The Bandipur National Park has been divided into 102 transact lines. One of the key features of this census is that for the first time the carnivore, the herbivore as well as the vegetation pattern is being studied to ensure the tiger habitat here is safe and healthy.


"Earlier we used to see only about the pugmarks, now we are seeing the vegetation and we are seeing the prey base. Vegetation is very important," said B Venkatesh, Deputy Conservator of Forest, Bandipur.


Eleven parameters


Another first in this census is that eleven parameters are going to be used to study the pugmarks according to the manual given by the Wildlife Institute.


All the data will then be analysed by the Wildlife Institute at Dehradun and they will come up with an independent assessment of what India's Tiger Census looks like.


"Now for the first time the Wildlife Institute has come out with the different method. We will compare the results and decide whether there is a declining trend or inclining trend, or there is stability," said C Srinivasan, Field Director, Project Tiger.


Project Tiger


When Project Tiger started in 1972 the total estimation of the tiger population in India was around 1800.


Thirty-four years later the official estimate stands at 3000 tigers.


But conservationists contest this figure on grounds that the pugmark form of census taking has deep limitations.


That is precisely the very reason why in this round of census taking a whole lot of fresh inputs have been inculcated to ensure that this one is more fool proof.


"We never had so much problem of tiger poaching in South India. There were one or two incidents but now a lot of people who are interested in wildlife have woken up and they are giving a lot of suggestions," said B Venkatesh, Deputy Conservator of Forest, Bandipur.


Existing infrastructure


But forest officers say that it is not easy to save the tiger with the existing infrastructure available to them.


"As you know the population has jumped almost three times since independence. Now, there are a lot of field problems, encroachment problems, poaching problems but the staff remains the same. For every 4000 acres or 10,000 acres there is only one guard," said G N Srikantaiah, Conservator Forest, Mysore.


They say that if you save the tiger, you save the jungle and you save humanity but the Sariska event clearly proved that the government did not have the political will to do just that.


While this particular census is a step in the right direction, much more needs to be done to ensure that the tiger roams freely and fearlessly in these forests.


For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 150 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.920.4130 fax 885.4457 cell 493.4564


Meet our recent mountain lion cub rescues:


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