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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Odisha government to begin tiger census in Similipal Tiger Reserve from today

Similipal Tiger Reserve, which spreads over 2,750 square kilometres and falls within the tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district, boasts of some of the best forests and wildlife in the state

Subhashish Mohanty Bhubaneswar Published 18.10.23, 07:49 AM
Tigers at Similipal reserve

Tigers at Similipal reserve Sourced by the Telegraph

The Odisha government on Wednesday will begin its own tiger estimation in a vast area comprising 16 ranges of Similipal Tiger Reserve and Baripada, Rairangpur and Karanjia forest divisions even as experts continue to debate the Union environment ministry’s report showing a decline in the state’s wild cat population.

The state government is hopeful that the number of tigers in Similipal will increase from 16 to 35 once the estimation process is over.

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Similipal Tiger Reserve, which spreads over 2,750 square kilometres and falls within the tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district, boasts of some of the best forests and wildlife in the state.

Director of Similipal Tiger Reserve, Prakash Chand Gogineni, told The Telegraph: “The counting based on line transect and sign survey will be held from Wednesday during the day time till October 31.”

Line transect sampling is a distance sampling method of estimating the abundance of wild animal population.

Gogineni said: “The estimation of tigers through camera trapping will start from November 1 and it will continue till January. Pugmarks and stool samples will be collected. If required, we will go for DNA sampling if there is any doubt. Finally, the data will be submitted to the government as part of a comprehensive report.”

“Although we have 1,000 cameras, we will use around 600 cameras for counting purposes. We will continue with the tiger estimation for 75 days through camera trap exercise instead of the usual 40 days,” Gogineni added.

The scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had recently conducted training for master trainers and imparted handholding training to around 20 officials at Chandaka on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar for the tiger census.

According to the All India Tiger Estimation (AITE) report released by the Government of India in July, the total number of striped big cats in Odisha's forests is 20. Their number was 28 in 2018.

Out of 20, 16 tigers are there in Similipal and the rest four live in the area adjoining the Similipal tiger reserve, officials said.

The number of tigers in the state has been steadily declining. In 2006, the state had 45 tigers, but in 2010, the number reduced to 32. In 2018, it further came down to 28. This year, the number of tigers declined to 20. The tiger estimation was carried out in the year 2021-22.

Gogineni said: “The tiger estimation was done in 2021-22. We are hopeful that the number of tigers in Similipal would jump from 16 to 35. The number of tigers increased. Many tigers, who are adults now, were cubs and not counted during the tiger estimation conducted by the WII. We also have records. But we need to confirm through our tiger estimation using different kinds of counting and camera trap methods.”

While many experts attribute the decline in the number of big cats to rampant poaching, there are some who question the methodology of counting the tigers.

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