Palamau (Jharkhand), Dec.1 : Wildlife authorities involved with the Palamau Tiger Reserve Project in Jharkhand are employing the latest DNA techniques to ascertain the number of tigers living in the reserve.
The Palamau Tiger Reserve was started in 1973. The present area of the reserve was duly notified as a protected forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, in 1947.
Prior to the creation of the Palamau Tiger Reserve, the management of these forests was highly commercialized. There were some cattle camps and the area was open to grazing. The entire forest area used to be ravaged by fires every year. Poaching too was rampant.
In earlier census were conducted using rudimentary techniques like pugmark casting.
To ascertain the exact number of tigers, wildlife officials approached the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad for the DNA testing technique.
The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has a foolproof method of differentiating between two tigers. Government of India is funding the project.
Ashok Kumar Singh, Conservator of Forests, Palamau Tiger Reserve, said: "We were using traditional method of ascertaining the number of tigers like casting of pug marks. In addition to this, the Wild life Institute of India has suggested a technique of DNA tests that is more scientific. Both methods complement each other."
Amod Gautam, a forest officer at the Palamau Tiger Reserve, said he was satisfied that the tiger population has increased in the reserve. He said that it was indicative of the success of various tiger management measures undertaken at the reserve.
"In 1997-98 there were 42 tigers here in the mean time due to the hunters here their (tiger) population had decreased but now it is gradually improving. As the numbers of tigers is increasing this means that tiger management is doing fine here without proper tiger management, carnivorous animals cannot breed," Gautam said.
It was only after a report was published of a negligible tiger presence in the Palamau Tiger Reserve, that the forest department swung into action to prove that it had fair share of tigers left.
The number of tigers in India has plummeted to around 1,411, nearly half the previous estimate, as humans either kill them for their body parts or encroach on their habitat, according to a government survey.
The estimate comes from the latest tiger census by the government-run National Tiger Conservation Authority, and is based on a more complex counting method.
The previous census, carried out in 2001 and 2002, said there were 3,642 tigers. A century ago there were 40,000.