The Forest Department in Coimbatore is planning to assess the number of tigers in Coimbatore forests and reorient its strategy to protect the animal following sighting of a tiger for the third time in Sirumugai range of the Coimbatore forest.

District Forest Officer V. Thirunavukkarasu told The Hindu on Monday that the Forest Department had installed a camera to capture the images of animals, focussing more on carnivores, especially tigers. The camera installed at Sirumugai has recorded the movement of a tiger. During a census conducted in March seven pug marks of tigers were found.

A study based on this would help the department explore the possibility of making the habitat more ideal for tigers, Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said.

The Forest Department would also find out whether the tiger image was that of a tiger of the Coimbatore forests or that of a migrant one i.e., an extended population from the nearby forests. Sirumugai reserve forest is a contiguous forest in the lower reaches of the Western Ghats and the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is in the upper reaches. Recent reports indicate the presence of tigers in the Silent Valley forest in Kerala and the Sirumugai forest is an extension of the Silent Valley as well.

In addition, Sirumugai forms part of the contiguous forests closer to the Sathyamangalam reserve forest said to be having tigers.

A proposal to declare the Sathyamangalam reserve forest as a tiger reserve was already on the cards, official sources said.

Mr. Thirunavukkarasu said that during the current financial year, the department was planning to procure more cameras to capture the wildlife, especially carnivores with a special focus on tigers. Additional cameras would enable simultaneous monitoring and trapping of images. The Coimbatore forest area is 697 sq km spread over six ranges.

Going by all the three images and study of the pug marks and continuous monitoring of the forests and camera trap images over the next one or two years, the officials plan to arrive at the exact number of tigers present in the forests. The officials are planning to re-locate the camera to Mettupalayam range which is close to Sirumugai range.