Held in Anamalai, Mudumalai, Sathyamangalam tiger reserves

The synchronised wildlife census, with special focus on carnivores and tigers in particular, began in a big way in Western Ghats region of Western Tamil Nadu on Tuesday and will go on till December 22.

Across the region, the Forest Department on Monday sensitised the forest staff and volunteers, who took part in the census, to the do’s and don’ts.

In Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR), the census began in the 958 sq.km. area spread over six ranges. The participation of staff and volunteers is said to be in the order of nearly 300. The first three days of census will be on carnivore sign survey, walking along the 74 line transects and each has to walk around 5 km.

Similarly, the 650 sq km area in six ranges of the Coimbatore Territorial Forest Division and the Nilgiri North, South and Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) also witnessed hectic activity with the volunteers commencing the survey. The census exercise will also focus on vegetation assessment and herbivore assessment including lesser known species.

In the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR), the department deployed 48 teams to undertake tiger census in the seven ranges in Sathyamangalam and Hasanur divisions on an expanse of 1,400 sq.km. Over 60 volunteers are taking part. Each team would be required to trek for 15 km every day into the forest area to look for tiger signs such as pug marks and scat.

Three days would be for estimation of the number of tigers and co-predators and the remaining for determining the numbers of herbivores and flora variety, said K. Rajkumar, District Forest Officer, Sathyamangalam and Deputy Director, STR.

In the newly created Hasanur Division, 19 teams, each comprising six members, would be undertaking the census work in the three ranges. There were six teams for Hasanur range, five for Germalam, and eight for Thalavadi range, said P. Pari, District Forest Officer, Hasanur, and Deputy Director, STR.

In the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in The Nilgiris, forest staff and students of the Forest College, Mettupalayam, moved into the area early on Tuesday. Mudumalai Ranger L.Sunderraj said that the 321 sq. km. reserve had been divided into 36 transacts. Pointing out that 35 students including 14 girls had volunteered for the census work, he said that each transact was being handled by a team comprising a forest staff and two students. Each team was equipped with instruments such as GPS apparatus, range finder, compass, rope and tape. Pointing out that they had also been told to look out for vultures, Mr. Sundarraj said that they had been provided with photos of the scavengers. Medical teams were kept ready to deal with emergencies. Every evening, the volunteers would have to document their findings.

(Inputs from V.S. Palaniappan in Coimbatore, R. Krishnamoorthy in Erode and D. Radhakrishnan in Udhagamandalam)

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