| A tiger captured by an existing camera trap at Valmiki Tiger Reserve. Photo courtesy Wildlife Trust of India |
The maiden annual tiger census at Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) mandated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority started on January 15.
The tiger counting process started with the simultaneous installation of camera traps at VTR in India and adjoining Parsa Wildlife Reserve in Nepal with technical assistance from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India.
Santosh Tiwari, the field officer of VTR, told The Telegraph: “We are installing 120 cameras in Govardhana, Raghia and Manguraha ranges, which fall under division-I of the VTR. These cameras are installed in pairs. Sixty camera traps are being installed in grids spread over an area of 2x2km across the 900sqkm of the reserve. Similar digital camera traps have already been installed at Parsa Wildlife Reserve in Nepal. The camera traps are being installed with the technical assistance of WWF.”
Jimmy Borah, one of the national co-ordinators for the tiger programme of WWF, India, said: “Initially, 40 camera traps are being installed in the first block earmarked at the VTR. The installation of camera traps at Chitwan National Park in Nepal — the immediate neighbouring tiger reserve of the VTR — will also start by the end of January as the camera trap installation work at Parsa is now complete.”
He added that the camera traps are being installed in all the interconnected reserves in Nepal and India to avoid duplication in counting and ascertain the number of tigers in Terai arch. The Terai arch comprises Parsa, Chitwan and Bardia National Park in Nepal, VTR in Bihar, Sohagi Burwa and Dudhwa tiger reserves in Uttar Pradesh and Corbett Tiger Landscape in Uttarakhand.
“The tiger counting till now has been confined to tiger reserves but the ongoing census covers the tiger landscapes, which extend from the reserves,” Borah said.
At present, the authorities would monitor the tigers at division-I of the VTR over three weeks.
“The same cameras would be installed in division-II of the reserve, which comprises Ganauli, Chiutaha, Valmiki Nagar and Harnatar ranges. The monitoring at division-II would be done over three weeks after which the final stage of monitoring would be done at Madanpur range for another three weeks. The data is being downloaded within a day or two,” said field officer Tiwari.
Borah informed the WWF team recently spotted a tigress with a few cubs at the VTR.
“Tiger movement has been spotted mostly in the Manguraha range. The number of tigers in the range has increased significantly after the Supreme Court stopped stone mining there in 2004. Many tigers were spotted in the Madanpur range too,” said Tiwari.
On the other hand, a meeting of senior officers of tiger reserves in India and Nepal was held at Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh on January 7 and 8.