The annual national tiger census that has begun in Tamil Nadu is being criticised by volunteers who point to some major and sometimes bizarre irregularities in the process, and are questioning the reliability of data collected under these circumstances.

The exercise was described as “chaotic” by volunteers who took part in the tiger census in Mudumalai National Park from May 3 to 8. While the demands of ‘VIP' volunteers were pandered to, the scientific briefing was poor leading to violations of guidelines with people using mobile phones while on the survey. With no scientist available, the briefing given to volunteers on methodology was poor and basic guidelines were omitted such as not to wear bright coloured clothes. The volunteers did not really know how to handle the equipment such as range finders and compass, he added.

NWEA secretary S. Jayachandran, however, denied the allegations. “The only irregularity we noticed was that one of the volunteers was smoking in the national park”

Rajiv Srivatsava, field director and Chief Conservator of Forests of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, said that he was aware that an unsustainable number of volunteers were taken on for the survey in the adjacent Nilgiri North Division.