With the Orissa government and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) differing over the number of tigers at the Simlipal Tiger Reserve, a census would be carried out from May 8 to establish their exact number.

“The state conducted a census in Similipal in 2009 and estimated a tiger population comprising 16 males, 31 females and 14 cubs, using the old pugmark method,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh recently told the Rajya Sabha.

However, the WII’s, which conducted a census by using the camera trap method in 2008, put the total number of big cats in Orissa at 45, with just 20 tigers in the reserve in Mayurbhanj district.

The state government took exception to the WII report claiming that there were 192 tigers in the state which included 101 big cats at the reserve which was established by the pug mark method.

Chief Wildlife Warden P N Padhi told PTI that the census would be be more comprehensive and detailed this time.

The ensuing census would employ both the pug mark and camera trap methods, Padhi said.

Wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty claims that 40 tigers disappeared from Simlipal alone during 2004 and 2009.

“We are hopeful that the May 8 census will remove the confusion over the population of tigers in the state, particularly at STR,” he said.

According to the 2004 census report on the government website, the STR has 94 tigers in the core area and seven others in the buffer and its immediate periphery, besides 132 leopards.

It claimed that Simlipal had the highest number of tigers -- 27 males, 39 females and 28 cubs.

STR was followed by Sunabedha, a proposed tiger reserve, with 32 big cats comprising 11 males, 10 females and 11 cubs.

The Satkosia-Baisipalli (proposed) tiger reserve representing the Satkosia wildlife division and Mahanadi wildlife division together housed 18 tigers.

The state, according to 2004 census, also had 487 leopards -- 196 males, 248 females and 43 cubs.

The total population of tigers and leopards was rising in the state since 2000, the wildlife wing claimed.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that three tigers had fallen prey to poachers between 2005-06 and 2007-08.