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Hi-tech camera traps for big cat census

The big cats at Valmiki Tiger Reserve would be under the surveillance of 124 cameras from December.

The tiger reserve administration will install 124 new camera traps to keep track on the feline residents. Twelve of these camera traps have been donated by the World Wildlife Fund, India; the environment and forests department has procured the remaining through funding from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

The new equipment would be used to complete the tiger census at the reserve mandated by the NTCA. The census has been delayed by a year.

Santosh Tiwari, a field officer at the VTR, told The Telegraph on Friday: “We are expecting the delivery of 124 camera traps by November 25. The installation work is expected to take another week. We feel that the camera traps would be functional by the first week of December.”

Tiwari added that the primary motive for installation of the camera traps was to complete the annual tiger census at the reserve, spread over 901 sqkm at Bagaha in West Champaran.

At present, the VTR has only 12 analogue cameras.

Sources said the NTCA, after consultation with tiger reserves across the country, introduced the yearly census system in November last year. It is supposed to provide a more accurate estimate of the big cat count on a regular basis.

“Unfortunately, we defaulted the annual tiger census last year,” said Tiwari. “But after the installation of the new cameras, we would be able to complete the annual census by March next year. The report would be sent to the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.”

According to the tiger census conducted using camera trapping in 2010, eight tigers were registered in the VTR core area, spread over 440sqkm. Tiwari claimed that since then, the number of tigers had increased to 17.

Explaining the camera-trapping method of counting tigers, Tiwari said: “The new camera traps use advanced technology including digital cameras, infra-red rays and sensors.

“Once the sensors detect the movement of a tiger, the camera captures the photograph using infra-red rays. The duplication of tigers in such a counting method is also ruled out as every tiger has a unique stripe pattern on its skin.”

Authorities at the VTR, located 289km north of Patna in the Terai region of the Himalayas, are also working on finalising the tiger conservation plan for the reserve.

“The tiger conservation plan comprises the documentation for the steps suggested to protect the tigers and conservation of the reserve,” said Tiwari. “It would be sent to the NTCA for approval.”


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