Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Camera trapping for tiger census in Orang.

By A Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, Dec 11 – For the first time in Orang National Park, camera trapping — the most reliable method of tiger census used all over the country and Asia — has been initiated successfully to estimate and monitor the tiger population. Significantly, the method has already yielded five tiger pictures during its trial run in the park. Orang, as per the last census in 2002, had 19 tigers.

The research initiative has been undertaken by Aaranyak in collaboration with the State Forest Department.

Camera trapping is the preferred method over the pugmark method for conducting estimates of tiger. The camera traps, equipped with an electronic switch and a camera, record tigers or other animals that walk in from of the camera as a photograph of the animal.

“Tigers have natural markings (stripes) and stripes of each individual are different. Using photographs obtained from the cameras can be compared to identify each individual tiger, thus making estimates reliable and easier, especially for animals like tiger, leopard, etc.,” Firoz Ahmed of Aaranyak said.

Ahmed said that the data from the camera traps would be available by early next year and the park managers would have information about the number of tigers in Orang by March. However, Aaranyak plans to make it a long-term monitoring to compare tiger populations in Orang across years, which will be vital for proper management of prey animals and habitats in the park.

Monitoring tigers and prey animals through the use of modern scientific techniques has become the need of the hour, as the tiger population throughout the country is rapidly dwindling. Though official estimates had put the country’s tiger population around 3,500-4,000, present data indicate that there could be only 1,300-1500 tigers left.

Assam recorded a tiger count of 265 as per the last pugmark census carried out by the Forest Department in 2002.

The camera trap was inaugurated recently by BS Bonal, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), in presence of S Momin, DFO Mangaldoi Wildlife Division, Jayanta Deka, FRO, Orang NP and Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, secretary general, Aaranyak.

Earlier, Aaranyak had carried out a tiger presence absence study in Manas National Park, and a detailed tiger-monitoring programme in collaboration with the Forest Department in the offing.

Aaranyak organized a three-days training programme on ‘Monitoring Tigers and Prey Animals: Advanced Training for Biologists and Managers’ in Orang recently as part of the ongoing collaborative initiative of the Forest Department and Aaranyak to monitor tigers and its prey animals in Assam.

The three-days training was meant for the biologists and forest managers and it covered different aspects of tiger and prey animals monitoring. These included general introduction on tiger, its ecology and current status, concepts of population monitoring, sign survey for tiger and prey animals, distance sampling and line transect survey, capture-recapture sampling and camera trap survey, lab and field exercises and data analysis.

The training was attended by seven wildlife biologists from Aaranyak and seven Forest Department staff, which was inaugurated by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) MC Malakar.


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