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RTR begins counting its tigers on Thursday, with help of 300 camera traps

Beginning Thursday, the Rajaji Tiger Reserve will start the process to count its big cats as part of All India Tiger Estimation

dehradun Updated: Mar 07, 2018 21:33 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
A pair of tigers play inside Rajaji Tiger Reserve. (HT Photo)

Beginning Thursday, the Rajaji Tiger Reserve will start the process to count its big cats as part of All India Tiger Estimation. The officials will install 300 cameras traps in the first phase amid optimism over a possible increase in the tiger numbers at the reserve.

However, shunning the traditional method of engaging the camera traps in the core area, the RTR management will start by installing them in periphery areas. Around 150 camera traps are available with the reserve Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will be providing another 150.

“We will start by putting camera traps in the RTR periphery covering areas bordering Haridwar and Dehradun. The camera traps will remains in place for 25 days,” Sanatan Sonkar, director, RTR, said.

“It is the first phase of camera trapping. If the need is felt, then we might for a second phase of camera trapping as well,” he added.

The eastern part of the reserve, spread across 150 sqkm, has reported healthy breeding of tigers. As per the Phase-IV monitoring of tigers done last year, there were 34 tigers in the reserve. This includes two tigers in reserve’s western part, which at 570 sqkm, is nearly four times the size of the eastern part. The figure is an indicator of healthy ecosystem and prey base in the reserve that had reported only 18 tigers in the 2014 estimation.

“The rehabilitation of forest dwellers played an important role in strengthening tiger numbers,” said Dinesh Pandey, a Haridwar-based wildlife activist.

Despite porous boundary and high human intervention, the RTR has managed to maintain the sanctity of the protected area. The eastern and western parts of the reserve are divided by a narrow corridor. Officials are working to ensure speedy construction of three flyovers in the corridor to allow safe movement of wild animals from one side to another.

“We are pitching for speedy construction work of flyovers to facilitate movement of wild species,” Jai Raj, head of forest force (HoFF), said.

The All India Tiger Estimation is conducted every four years. The first three estimations, completed in 2006, 2010, and 2014, threw up estimates of 1411, 1706, and 2226 tigers, respectively. In 2014, over 70% of the tiger population was estimated through camera traps, where 1686 photographs of individual big cats had been obtained, as per government officials. The remaining 30% of the big cats were estimated using statistical models, where ecological covariates of prey, habitat, and human impact were used.

A PIB release had earlier said that this year’s tiger estimation — world’s largest wildlife survey effort in terms of coverage, intensity of sampling and quantum of camera trapping — will be far more accurate and precise than ever before.

Compared to 2006, when 9700 cameras were used across all the reserves, the 2018 estimation will use nearly 15000 cameras.

Meanwhile, the officials are also working to translocate tigers into the reserve’s western part. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has already given nod to radio-collar the tigers so that they could be monitored before translocation is carried out.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 21:33 IST