The exercise, which is being held nation-wide, will cover five tiger reserves, three wildlife sanctuary and one national park
About 1,000 people, including 250 volunteers, have fanned out across five tiger reserves and two wildlife divisions across Karnataka to estimate the tiger numbers and assess the quality of habitat of the country’s top predator in exercise that draws global interest.
There are roughly 3,500 tigers left in the wild in the world of which India accounts for almost 60% of the population with their numbers estimated to be around 2,226 (in a range of 1,945 tigers at a minimum to 2,491 maximum) as per the 2014 assessment.
Though it is a nation-wide exercise, it is not synchronised and hence different States will carry out the assessment on different dates.
The eight-day protocol, which began on January 1, included training, field preparation and mock drill.
The critical part of the census constituting carnivore and mega herbivore sign survey began on Monday.
This will be held till January 10 after which the vegetation, human disturbance, pellet count etc. would be taken into account in the line transect survey to be conducted till January 13.
Manoj Kumar, Chief Conservator of Forests, who is coordinating the exercise, said that the carnivore sign could not be conducted in M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary besides Bannerghatta as some of the forest divisions were missing in the app designed by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun. “We have informed them about taking corrective measures and the survey will be held from January 22 to 27 when the same exercise will be conducted in the territorial forest divisions,” said Mr. Manoj Kumar. However, the survey went on smoothly in Kudremukh and Madikeri wildlife divisions, he added. This is in addition to the survey in the five tiger reserves: Bandipur, Nagarahole, Bhadra, BRT and Kali tiger reserve (Dandeli-Anshi).
Conservator of Forests, Bandipur, Ambadi Madhav, said all volunteers and staff will stay in the forest range offices and in the anti-poaching camps allotted to them till the conclusion of the survey. There were encouraging signs of carnivore presence, including pug marks, scratch marks, pellets, while there were reports of a few sightings of both tigers as well as leopards besides dholes.
“Our staff and volunteers have spread out across the tiger habitat looking for carnivore signs and are accompanied by forest department staff,” he added.
They are expected to cover 5 km during each beat and the details and observations will be uploaded to the ecological module of the mobile app, Monitoring System for Tigers Intensive Patrolling and Ecological Status (MSTRiPES), developed by WII. Karnataka alone was home to nearly 406 tigers as per the previous count and the assessment of ‘status of tigers, co-predators, prey and their habitat’ is conducted once every 4 years across the country and it began in 2006.
While there were an estimated 290 tigers in 2006 in Karnataka, their numbers were pegged at 300 based on the 2010 assessment and 406 in the 2014 exercise.
In the next phase, camera traps will be placed at identified grids of 2x2 sq km each and for the first time, this will be extended to territorial divisions as well.