More than 1,100 all-weather day and night trap cameras are being installed across the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve as part of the annual tiger count exercise by the West Bengal forest department.
A senior official of the state forest department said multiple teams of foresters are setting up these trap cameras at 572 locations in the mangroves.
According to last year’s (2021-22) census, there are around 96 tigers in Sunderbans.
For this year’s count, the cameras are being installed at four ranges, including Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary, Basirhat Range, the National Park-East and the National Park-West. The total area of these ranges is 2,584.92 square km.
Counting tigers and monitoring their movement in the Sunderbans is a daunting task as compared to other places in the country that have big cats owing to the rugged terrain of the mangroves and the timings of tides have to be considered while venturing into the swamps and creeks.
According to another forester, the data from the cameras will be collected for over a month and collated to arrive at the tiger count.
The forest department is using MSTrIPES (Monitoring System for Tigers: Intensive Protection and Ecological Status), a software-based monitoring system and app for the census.
The trap cameras, which have this system embedded in them, will click tiger pictures and collect a host of other information — from the geographical coordinates to human interference in the area.
The unique challenges posed by the terrain of the world’s only mangrove tiger habitat prevented the software’s use.
But after some modifications, the system was finally fit for use in the Sunderbans, said wildlife biologists and foresters.
Earlier, during a census, a picture of a tiger was clicked at a particular spot.
While that picture was loaded into the data pool, the geographical coordinates and other information like pugmarks and scat signs in the area would have to be collected separately and fed into the system manually.
“Now, a single system collates all data that was earlier taken from multiple sources,” said Tapas Das, field director of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.