The 2011 tiger census report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, has the total tiger population at 1,706.
Remember, Ruskin Bond's story “The Tiger in the Tunnel” or William Blake's poem, “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright?” India has more than half of the world's tigers. As per the 2011 tiger census report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the total tiger population was estimated at approximately 1,706.
According to the 2010 tiger census by the Wildlife Institute there were 72 tigers in the State. The Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve, which is the largest in India spreads across 3,568 sq. km in five districts, namely Nalgonda, Mahbubnagar, Kurnool, Prakasam and Guntur, offers a haven for tigers. Last year, Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary near Jannaram in Adilabad district was declared as a tiger reserve, the second in the State. Kawal is spread across 892 sq.km and has at least six tigers, a number of leopards and a large prey base. So how are tigers counted? Traditionally, the pugmark census was used. The jungles would be scanned and each and every tiger's pugmarks found and sizes taken. However, it was found to be unscientific, as it needed an exceptionally trained eye to identify individual tigers. Not all animals could be counted given the limited resources and time.
Therefore now, only samples of animals are counted and then projected for the entire park. For this process, basic ecology of tigers needs to be understood and non-invasive methods have to be used. The latest methods include camera trapping.
Also known as the Mark Recapture Technique, here a capture history of every individual tiger is created, which would help in identifying the number of tigers. “In this process, two cameras are tied to trees. These cameras take a photo when anything passes by. The individual figures are identified later and the tigers are counted,” explains Imran Siddiqui of Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society.
These days efforts have gone hi-tech to count the big cat to save them. DNA is an important tool in this direction. Excreta samples are collected of animals in the forests. “The DNA is used to identify the species and gender. Individual genetic profiles of tigers are then created, which vary from animal to animal.
This would help identify and count the tigers,” explains Dr S. Shivaji, Scientist, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology . CCMB is playing a significant role in conservation of endangered species.