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200 cameras for tiger spotting

Ranchi, Dec. 17: Around 200 high-sensitive cameras will join the search for the hitherto “missing” big cats at the 1,129.93sqkm Palamau Tiger Reserve.

The recent discovery of pug mark, hair strands and a prey in Mahuadanr region of the reserve — one of the oldest and arguably the most neglected — has prompted forest officials to procure a fresh set of 200 camera traps for picking up big cats’ trails and prey base, thus helping forest officials know their actual number. Palamau has six tigers according to the last census released little over a year ago. However, till date, only one has been successfully spotted.

“We started the process of procuring the cameras on Monday with floating of a tender. According to norms, 25 double-sided cameras per 100 square kilometres is needed for proper coverage,” said chief conservator of forests P.C. Mishra. The last date for responding to the tender is January 3.

As many as 45 to 50 camera traps were introduced inside the reserve early last year. But while some of them were stolen, a few got damaged. Consequently, the remaining cameras were pulled off owing to security reasons. The reserve is divided into 30 segments for camera trapping and a majority of the zones fall in high-sensitive areas with Naxalite presence.

But around the last week of November, forest officials spotted a pug mark, hair strands and a prey at Mahuadanr. The officials maintained that further assessments confirmed the presence of a second tiger as its specifications were different from the earlier one captured on camera.

Mishra also said that the move was aimed at lending a fillip to the much-delayed fourth phase of tiger monitoring project at Palamau. “There are set norms for phase IV monitoring as besides manual tracking, camera traps, range finders and other technical logistics are needed to get accurate result,” he added.

According to sources, work for the fourth phase monitoring project began from November. “We held a daylong training for forest guards and trackers. A representative from National Tiger Conservation Authority also recently visited the reserve for this purpose. The field visits have begun. However, desired results can’t be expected without cameras and range finders,” said an official.