Tiger census to miss accuracy again?
14 Jun 2009, 0530 hrs IST, Neha Shukla , TNN
LUCKNOW: Will tigers lurking in cane fields around the periphery of Dudhwa tiger reserve miss the camera traps yet again. It could still be a pre-mature doubt. But, with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) applying the technology used in 2007-08 in this year's tiger census, the doubt does exist. Local forest officials and conservationists voice apprehensions that a good number of tigers might be missed out again.
The new population estimation cycle for tigers will be conducted this year. Big cats in all 28 tiger reserves of the country will be counted for their numbers by the WII in October. The exercise will be similar to the one taken in 2007, which was the first tiger census based on sophisticated technology -- camera trap based mark recapture process.
Sources in WII share that Dudhwa is one of the sites chosen for camera trappings. "We are going to use camera trap in 10% of tiger occupied forests as we had done in the last estimation," said sources. This will be a part of the core area. And, if this happens then tigers in cane fields might not get recorded on camera.
Dudhwa tiger reserve comprises Dudhwa national park, Kishenpur and Katarniaghat wildlife sanctuaries. The forests of north and south Kheri along with Pilibhit form the reserve forest area. Core area has entire 203 sq km of Kishenpur sanctuary and a part of 615 sq km of Dudhwa national park. Buffer area might be around 66 sq km.
In February 2008 census, 109 tigers were found to cover 2,766 sq km of forest area in UP. But, there emerged controversy that number projected for the state might have been less as tigers present in cane fields were missed in the count. Mostly, tigresses with cubs are present inside cane fields. "We fear it might be repeated this time again," said an official.
Dudhwa tiger reserve is surrounded with cane fields all around. Lying in the Terai belt the cane fields form a dense cover and tigers' presence is proved by attacks on men when they venture into these fields. However, after an addition of area from north Kheri forest division recently, the total area under Dudhwa reserve might have increased from earlier 884 sq km.
"At least four tigers are sheltering in cane fields in Dhaurhara right now," said one of the local forest officials. Though WII is planning to sample protected area and some portion of reserve forest area by camera traps, will that cover cane fields is still to be seen.