Scientific census methods adopted to identify them
TIRUNELVELI: The third phase of the scientific census conducted on 80 sq. km. of the 895 sq. km, Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) to ascertain the tiger population has revealed the presence of two tigers inside as well as outside the study area apart from exposing the presence of ten co-carnivores - panthers - in this region.
The study was conducted by a team headed by K. Shankar, Professor and Research Co-ordinator, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun.
Speaking to reporters here on Thursday, Dr. Shankar said that scientific census methods were being followed during the recent past following the sudden disappearance of tigers from the Sariska tiger sanctuary in Alwar district of Rajasthan and also to arrive at the near accurate minimum and maximum number of big cats living in the sanctuaries as the traditional direct sighting, pug mark, scat identification, claw marks etc. were not so reliable and had to be cross-checked.
Since tigers are so active in the early morning and late evening, Deer Cam, weather-proof heat sensor cameras were used in every two sq. km. during this exercise to monitor the movement and estimate the population of the national animal within the area taken-up for study. Whenever any animal crosses the camera, it will capture its image automatically. Moreover, the DNA extracted from the mucous of fresh scat is also used to ascertain the number of tigers present in a particular area.
“When we followed similar method at Mudumalai, we could get evidence for the presence of 22 tigers in 120 sq. km. and here a male tiger could be seen at Kannikatti area falling under Mundanthurai Range while the second one – a tigress – was found at Veerapuli Beat of Thirukkurunkudi Range, which is outside our study area. And we are also so happy with the panther population at KMTR since we could get evidence for the presence of 10 panthers during this census,” said Dr. Shankar, who has carried out tiger census in several states across the country.
As the census should be a continuous process to ascertain the near exact number of the tiger population, Dr. Shankar’s team, which has planned to be here for two more weeks, has trained the forest personnel in the scientific census methods and the using of several gadgets, including cameras.
“After the end of our exercise, we’ll submit the report by December-end. We’ll also provide them with a map, showing the concentration of the big cats in each of the seven ranges under KMTR. Moreover details on the prey-base of the tiger and other carnivores and the quantum of human pressure on the wildlife of KMTR will also be given in this report.”
During the fourth phase of the programme, which will be an intensive assignment, radio-collaring of tigers living in the jungles of ten different places across the country would be done and the KMTR could be one among these spots, he said.
The Field Director and Conservator of Forest, KMTR, A. Ramkumar, the District Forest Officer, A.V. Venkatachalam, the Deputy Director, Kalakkad Tiger Reserve, D. Venkatesh, the Eco Development Officer, V. Pasupathiraj, forestor, Kalakkad, Jabez and others were present.