K.S. Sudhi

Recounting conducted by Forest Department

Tiger conservation authority had recorded fall in tiger population

Tiger census in PTR in December

KOCHI: Increase in tiger density has been reported from the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) following the recounting of tiger population in the reserve.

According to a recent study conducted by the Reserve and the Periyar Foundation, the tiger density of the reserve is 24 tigers in 640 sq. km.

The recounting was done by the Forest Department after a report by the National Tiger Conservation Authority had recorded sharp fall in the number of tigers in the State.

The Authority had reported early this year that there were only 23 tigers in the Periyar landscape from the Reserve to Neyyar Wild Life Sanctuary covering 2,314 sq. km. of tiger-occupied forests. It had also estimated the tiger population of the State at 46 in 6,168 sq. km. of tiger-occupied habitat. These figures had created widespread disbelief in the State, as it was earlier estimated that there were about 75 tigers in the Kerala forest. There were also complaints that the survey was carried out in an unscientific manner. The survey was conducted as part of the national programme for monitoring of tigers, co-predators, prey and their habitat project.

In PTR, camera traps captured the pictures of 18 tigers, including seven each in the Thekkady and Vallakadavu ranges, three in the Periyar range and one in the West Division. It was also revealed that there were six males and 12 females in the population, said M. Balasubramanian, conservation biologist of the Foundation.

The analysis of the data was jointly carried out by Dr. Balasubramanian and A. Veeramani of the Foundation. The Foundation carried out the study between February and May this year and camera traps were used widely to identify and count tigers.

The camera traps were deployed in four-trapping blocks for 15 successive days and individual tigers were given unique identification numbers. Individual tigers were identified using the stripe pattern mainly on the flanks and shoulders, he said.

The tiger population in Periyar is not confined to Periyar but contiguous with adjacent territorial forest divisions in Kerala and the forest areas of Tamil Nadu.

Though the evidence of tiger is found throughout the Reserve, major areas of tiger in PTR are the Thekkady and Vallakadavu ranges and part of the Periyar range where moist forest with tall grassland dominates. The tiger density is likely to go up in PTR, as samplings were not done in Gavi, one of the potential tiger areas, he said.

The Forest Department plans to conduct exhaustive tiger census in all parts of the Reserve in December and nearly 100 camera traps will be installed then, he said.