A crucial census of tigers will get underway next month in Rajasthan where, to the shock of animal lovers, at least one wildlife reserve has lost its entire population of the big cat to poachers.
The census will be undertaken from May 2-18, and tiger reserves and parks where it is conducted will remain closed for tourists.
"In the Sariska tiger reserve and Ranthambore national park, census would first be taken up on the basis of the waterhole monitoring technique on May 2 and 3. Under this technique, the ponds in the jungles are kept under surveillance," an official said.
From May 4-18, the census would be conducted with the help of pugmark tracking. Besides this, certain other methods would be incorporated for counting tigers.
The state government has faced severe criticism from all political and non-political quarters on the dwindling tiger population from Sariska and Ranthambore.
A report produced in March 2005 by the Wildlife Institute of India confirmed that there were indeed no tigers left in the Sariska tiger reserve even though an official census conducted in 2004 had indicated that between 16 and 18 tigers lived there.
Enquiries revealed that all the tigers at Sariska had been killed by poachers. Other animals such as leopards had also been targeted.
The poaching activity appeared to be linked to a well-established network of tiger parts traders.
Even the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has castigated the state government for failing to save tigers. "There was a complete failure in the control of poaching and encroachment on forest lands," the CAG noted in its latest report.