STR finds fault in Camera trap exercise to count tigers

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Baripada,Nov 6 (UNI) Once again the headcount of the Royal Bengal Tiger (RBT) in the Simlipal Tiger Reserve(STR) has been dogged by controversies with the reserve officials finding out some lacuna in the sixty-day long camera trap exercises.

STR sources said the camera trap protocol devised by the Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India(WII) needed to be checked on a daily basis to prevent their malfunctioning.

But field verification from time to time by the field staff of the STR revealed that the cameras were found to be not working due to some reason or the other, thus nullifying the chances of any tiger capture and also effectively reducing the actual trapping effort, sources pointed out.

The STR officials further claimed that all the four researchers of the WII deployed for the camera trap exercises were found absent from the field for eighteen days as they got sick from cerebral malaria and for other personal reasons.

This also reduced the actual effective trap days to 45.

STR Field Director Debabrata Swain said that among the twelve beats selected by the researchers, only one called Bhanjabasa belonged to the high density category while all the others belonged to the medium density type.

Ironically, the final results showed that there was not a single tiger capture in the camera traps in Bhanjabasa whereas the field staff during the course of their duties regularly reported direct sightings of the Big Cat and collected other evidences of tiger presence in the area, Mr Swain added.

The STR sources said most of the cameras were installed on the main forest roads and on the animal trails and footpaths.In any census methodology based on sound statistical principles require replication of sampling sites or sessions.

The WII researchers selected thirty locations spread over 120 sqkms in Upper Barhakamuda Range of the STR encompassing a total area of 2750 sqkms of forests.

Nearly 60 cameras at the rate of two per location were deployed and actual trapping exercise started on March 26 which ended on May 20.

As per the analysis of the camera trap exercises, Simlipal holds only 30 RBT and not 101 as indicated by the pugmark based census in 2004.

UNI

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