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MP to start tiger counts on Monday, hopes to increase its big cat population

About 12,000 forest department staffers will scour width and length of the state’s jungles to do the survey.

bhopal Updated: Feb 04, 2018 21:20 IST
Ranjan
Madhya Pradesh will launch the All India Tiger Estimation-2018 on Monday hoping to increase its  big cat  population.
Madhya Pradesh will launch the All India Tiger Estimation-2018 on Monday hoping to increase its big cat population. (HT File Photo )

Madhya Pradesh will launch the All India Tiger Estimation-2018 on Monday eyeing to regain its lost status as the “tiger state” of the country.

About 12,000 forest department staffers will scour width and length of the state’s jungles to track the striped big cats with the following message from the top brass of the department: Ghoomna nahi, dhoondhna hai (Don’t saunter, seek out).

Madhya Pradesh lost the coveted tag of having highest population of the country’s national animal to Karnataka after the All India Tiger estimation in 2010. The number of big cats in the state drastically dwindled to 257 during that census from 300 in 2006. Though the number rose to 308 in 2014 estimation, the state failed to regain the status.

As per forest department officials, in 2014 estimation the unique individual tigers found on camera traps were 286, which was highest in the country, higher than Karnataka’s 260 and Uttrakhand’s 267. But in the overall count, number of number of tigers in Karnataka increased from 260 to 406 whereas MP’s estimated number only rose to 308.

There is a feeling at the higher echelons of the department that had there been better efforts in 2014, the number would have gone up.

One of the slides prepared by the department for training of the staff says, “Hum mehnat karne me sabse aage rahe, magar chinho ko khojne me chook gaye (We put in the best efforts but we missed the signs).” The 2014 survey covered 18 states.

There was a paradigm shift in the training of the staff this time and employees and officials engaged in the task are reminded of their specific task through slogans like ‘Ghoomna nahi, dhoondhna hai’, ‘Puri sab taiyari hai, samarpan aur imandari hai’, ‘Puri sab taiyari hai, bus ek chinh na chhoote’ etc.

“We broke the traditional mould of hierarchy in the training that only the seniors will train the juniors. This time, master trainers were forest guards, deputy rangers and rangers. We also decided to train and engage in the process even those not on field duties,” said Madhya Pradesh’s principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF), Wildlife, Jitendra Agrawal.

“This will not only help us get an accurate figure during the current tiger estimation, but will also help in future when a trained staff will be more observant about his surroundings and will give better feedbacks to the department about presence of wildlife in the area he visited”, said the PCCF.

Madhya Pradesh has the highest number of forest beats in the country. It has about 9000 beats as against 30,000 across the country, which means the state forest officials will have to scour almost one third of the country’s forest cover.

“We are expecting a better results this time as there were already good signs of tiger population increasing in the state in 2014,”Agarwal pointed out.

The authorities, however, say they are hardly bothered about the “tiger state” status, as it is not an official tag.

“We are the least bothered about the tiger-state status, which is not an official tag but created by the media. We are only concerned about how effectively and honestly we execute our work. This is a litmus test for us as the result will show if our efforts in the past four years to protect the tiger in particular and the wildlife in general have yielded the desired result,” Agrawal added.

How tiger estimation is done?

Phase 1 of tiger estimation involves collecting signs of tiger presence along with other parameters such as prey presence and habitat quality. This not only gives an idea about tiger presence but also tells how frequently tigers are using the area.

Phase II of the survey is carried out in laboratories by analysing multiple remote sensing data like forest type, density, human presence, moisture presence etc.

Phase III is camera trapping in few high tiger density areas. It yields number of unique tigers present in the study area. In the same area the signs collected during phase I give an estimated ratio of individual tiger vs signs created by it in a particular landscape type.

Later, the areas where only phase 1 is carried out, these statistics helps in estimation of the number of tigers.