Friday, May 25, 2007

India: Census in 2004, confusion over tiger count

Issue Date: Friday, May 25, 2007


Ranchi, May 24: The sight of the big cat is a rare one at the Palamau Tiger Reserve but if asked about the exact count, the number may vary from seven to 37.

The state forest department is clueless about what could be the exact number of the big cats right now. When asked, chief conservator of forests (wildlife) U.R. Biswas said the number of the big cats ranges between 34 and 38. But his estimate of the tiger population was based on the census conducted in 2004. There was no census of the tiger in the Palamau Tiger Reserve since 2005. Ironically, tiger trackers put the figure at not more than seven.

He said the census conducted by Wildlife Institute of India, which released the tiger population in 16 of 28 reserves yesterday, will release it for the Palamau Tiger Reserve by December.

The chief conservator said the method they adopted to assess the tiger population was by tracing pug marks. However, the reliability of the method was always questioned, though it had been followed since 1935, he added.

The Wildlife Institute of India has conducted the census using scientific technique of collecting direct evidences through camera trap and statistical analysis.

The institute had rated Palamau Tiger Reserve as “very good” despite issues involving separatists, poor law and order situation and declining tiger numbers. Interestingly, the actual number of tigers in the Palamau Tiger Reserve had always been a matter of dispute.

Since the first census in 1934, population of tigers showed a steady decline till 1972 when their number dwindled to 17. However, after the declaration of the sanctuary in 1973, the number showed a rise, reaching a figure of 55. The 1991 census figure shows the tiger population as 54. The 2004 animal census puts the number at 38.

Significantly, the report of Comptroller & Auditor General, tabled in the House this year, had also raised objections to the method of census adopted by the reserve.

The test check showed that annual tiger estimation was conducted in Palamau Tiger Reserve by untrained staff on the basis of pug marks, which was not a scientific method of census, the report noted.

"It was against the guidelines issued by the ministry of environment and forests from time to time for tiger estimation," it pointed out. jamshedpur/story_7826652.asp#

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