The Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) is preparing for the tiger census, 2014, with the support of a modern technique to identify and tag each tiger for more effective conservation.

The reserve will be the first in the country to give identification numbers to each tiger without outside support. The tigers are being numbered so that there will be a transparent way of finding out if any goes missing.

A software program has been developed to identify each using its stripes.

Sanjayankumar, Deputy Director of the reserve, told The Hindu on Friday that the census would be a detailed study and data would be collected to link the problems related to habitat conservation. Nearly 30 tigers had been tagged in the reserve and given identification numbers.

Tiger is a territorial carnivore and is migratory and its presence or absence in its natural habitat is related to biological aspects, prey availability and such factors.

The reserve, unlike others in the country, is a thick forest with limited undergrowth, a factor determining prey presence. Conservation is effective when all factors are favourable for it, and the stagnant number of tigers is a positive sign in terms of habitat capacity, M. Balasubramaniam, conservation biologist, says. The identification of each animal will help analyse its presence in a particular area and find out if it has migrated from its own territorial area. The reserve, spread over a large area, has an animal passage without a major break unlike other reserves. The reserve is not much affected by human intervention and corridor-break. The main preys for the tiger there are sambar deer, wild gaur and elephant.

Tiger conservation is linked to biological conservation and prey presence. The census will focus on all these to make it a grassroots-level study to prepare a reserve-level long-term conservation plan for the tigers in the country.

More In: Kerala | National