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Monday, April 16, 2012

National Tiger Conservation Authority adopts refined tiger estimation protocols

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | Apr 16, 2012, 03.38AM IST NAGPUR: Starting today the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) adopted new refined protocols for intensive monitoring of tiger source populations under the phase IV exercise of national tiger estimation. K Ullas Karanth, director, Wildlife Conservation Society-India, and Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), Bangalore, and his colleagues were working with NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, in a supportive technical role, in developing these protocols since 2009. "When implemented fully, these refinements will put India's tiger monitoring programme well ahead of any other monitoring programme for big cats, anywhere in the world," Karanth said. Karnataka and Maharashtra are already implementing the new protocols. In this regard, the spirit of innovation was also shown by Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of NTCA, and PR Sinha, director of WII, in the complex process of balancing science, involved in introducing these refinements, the conservation zoologist said. Karanth said that the new protocols will enable state forest departments to formally collaborate with qualified scientists, and enable them to move up a ladder of technical progress, from estimating minimum number of tigers to robust estimates of population density, change in number over time, survival and other crucial parameters. Relevant parts of the protocol specify strict standards for conduct of camera trap and fecal DNA surveys of important source populations of tigers as well as conduct of line transect surveys of prey. These protocols will work in tandem with a national tiger photographic data base repository to be developed and maintained at NTCA. The collaborative process envisaged in the monitoring process is also expected to bring wider participation of qualified scientists as well as greater transparency and rigour to the tasks of data collection and analyses. The tiger reserves in Maharashtra are following the new protocol. AK Mishra, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director of Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), said the protocol was discussed between NTCA and field directors of reserves in a series of meetings since August 2011. The new protocol has two major procedures viz. transect walking over transects of two-three km each with a view to assess prey densities but actual number of prey animals is not the objective. And secondly, to estimate the minimum number of tigers by using camera traps. "In MTR transect process was completed in February. The camera traps have been put in the field since March 10, 2012. The underlying objective is to get all the possible photos of tigers from high probability areas of the reserve. At the end all these photos will be analysed to assess minimum number of tigers and assign a name to each tiger," said Mishra.

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