Much to the disappointment of conservationists, the number of big cats in the Maoist-infested Palamau Tiger Reserve in Jharkhand has declined from 17 to six, as confirmed by research carried out through scat analysis.
"The scat analysis by the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has confirmed the presence of six tigers only in the tiger reserve," Field Director of Palamau Tiger Reserve P Upadhaya said.
Scat analysis is an examination of the faeces of animals done in order to determine their biological and genetic details.
The census in 2007 had confirmed the presence of 17 tigers in the reserve, spread over an area of 1,026 square kilometres in Jharkhand's Palamau district, which was described by the National Tiger Conservation Authority as a low-density tiger reserve.
Upadhaya, however, admitted that the actual number of the big cats might be more since the analysis had not been done on the basis of exhaustive samples.
He said that they had sent about 15 to 20 scat samples apart from general observation data from areas in different ranges in the reserve to the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India.
The Field Director said that the presence of Maoists in the area posed problems for free movement of forest personnel due to which proper monitoring could not be carried out in the interiors of the reserve.
"90 per cent of our field staff consists of local people who somehow manage to visit the interior ranges. However, our field staff is scared to visit the areas where there are maximum concentrations of the extremists," Upadhaya said.