The fourth phase of the intensive ‘Tiger Monitoring Programme,' envisaged by the Tiger Task Force of the Union Government, began at the Kalakkad - Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in Tirunelveli on Friday.

Giving details about the programme H. Malleshappa, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director, KMTR told The Hindu that the work on three phases had been completed. In the fourth phase, the setting up of 100 cameras in every four sq.km. area had begun.

In the first phase determining occupancy and mapping relative abundance of the carnivores was done. In the second phase the work on remotely sensed spatial and attribute covariates was done and in the third phase camera-trap based mark recapture was carried out, Mr. Malleshappa said.

The camera trapping will cover 400 sq.km. area in the 890 sq.km. spread of KMTR. The 400 sq.km. area has been identified as important tiger habitat. Already the KMTR officials have 20 cameras and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has provided funds to buy 60 cameras. Besides these, the World Wide Fund for Nature – India (WWF-I) has provided another 20 cameras.

Under the earlier system, the tiger population is monitored through census, conducted once in four years. In that system the casualty of cats due to old age or any other reason could not be identified. In the present intensive system movement of every tiger in a reserve could be identified, said D. Venkatesh, Deputy Director, KMTR, Ambasamudram.

The camera traps will be in place for 45 days, which would be regularly monitored by a team of researchers and department officials. The collected data from the traps would be digitally processed and compared, using special software. The data would be kept in KMTR and another set of data sent to NTCA and the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun. The field staffs such as Foresters, Guards and Watchers in the KMTR has already been provided adequate training on how to set up camera traps and methods to collect the data from it, Mr. Malleshappa said.

In Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Pollachi, the work on dividing the forest area into different grids has been completed. In Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Nilgiris, the officials have completed the work of grid mapping the entire reserve, and now the field staff are being trained.