The Forest Department is to begin monitoring tiger populations in the Nilgiris forest division each year, similar to protocols established in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR), said Field Director and Conservator of Forests (Nilgiris), D. Venkatesh on Wednesday, September 20, 2023.
S. Gowtham, District Forest Officer (Nilgiris Division), said that as per the last All India Tiger Estimation exercise, the division is home to 54 tigers, a significant population that has expanded into the division from MTR. Mr. Gowtham, along with Mr. Venkatesh and Deputy Director of MTR (Buffer Zone), P. Arunkumar, were addressing the media on Wednesday following the deaths of ten tigers (six cubs and four adults), in a little over a month in the district.
“The Nilgiris landscape, including MTR, Sathyamangalam, Nagarhole, Bandipur and Wayanad has the third-highest population of tigers anywhere in India, which is spilling over into the surrounding Nilgiris division. As a result, we have decided to conduct yearly monitoring of the population, similar to monitoring of the population in MTR,” said Mr. Venkatesh.
The Field Director explained that apart from the death of one tiger (in Emerald village in Kundah), which is suspected to have died from poisoning, the deaths of the other tigers, though unfortunate, were most likely due to natural processes and causes. “While we suspect that all six cubs belonging to two tigresses were abandoned, the other three tigers were killed due to fights with other tigers. Tigers are known to even cannibalise young cubs, while tigresses are also known to abandon their young. We suspect that this is what might have happened with the most recent deaths of the four cubs. However, we will continue our search for the tigress to ensure she is safe,” said Mr. Venkatesh.
The Forest Department has also collected scat samples found near where the cubs were discovered, for DNA analysis to identify the mother.
Mr. Venkatesh said that in order to ensure that the tiger populations in the Nilgiris divisions are properly monitored, semi-permanent structures comprising anti-poaching camps are to be set up in Korakundah, Kundah, Udhagai South, Naduvattam, Parsons Valley and Pykara Ranges, all surrounding the Mukurthi National Park. Camera traps are to be fitted and forest staff have already undergone one session of training to monitor and count the tigers in the division.
“This will allow us to know exactly how many tigers are living in the division, their ranges, potential threats and whether there is an overlap between ranges of different tigers,” said Mr. Venkatesh.