Pads & cameras for tiger count

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  • Published 18.09.08

Siliguri, Sept. 17: The Bengal forest department will deploy camera traps and pug impression pads (PIPs) for the first time to count tigers in the forests of north Bengal.

The census of the big cat in Neora Valley National Park in the Kalimpong subdivision will begin in November so that the job is completed before winter. “During winter, snowfall is a common feature in the park. Also, trees shed leaves in the season, hiding pugmarks and scratches left by tigers,” said Tapas Das, the divisional forest officer (wildlife-II).

According to the censuses conducted in 2001 and 2004, the number of tigers in the park was 16 and 11 respectively.

“This time, three methods will be used to estimate the tiger population in the park. These include taking pictures by laying camera traps in strategic locations, making pug impression pads and collection of tiger scat for DNA analysis,” said the DFO. He added that Neora Valley would be the first forest in north Bengal to use PIPs and camera traps.

The park, spread over 88sqkm, has red pandas, clouded leopards and Himalayan tahrs also.

Environmentalists said PIP is a small dust pad with a thickness of 2cm and it is placed beneath the surface of earth to obtain the footprints of the carnivore. The pads, which bear identification numbers, will be laid on probable tracks used by the tiger. The pad has to be cleaned everyday after data are recorded.

“However, the pads might be damaged when elephants take dust bath in the area where the they are deposited. Strong wind, dew drops and rain might also destroy the pads,” said a wildlife expert.

Das said the forest guards had already started making PIPs and at least 100 pads would be used to count the big cat in the park.

The camera trap consists of a motion detection circuit, a controller and a camera, all kept in a weather-proof enclosure. The detection circuit uses a passive infrared sensor and reacts to any moving object with a difference in temperature. The controller receives the input from the detector and activates the camera.

On the third method, Das said the foresters would collect the tiger scat and send it to the Wildlife Institute of India for DNA tests. “Our aim is to finish the census as perfectly as possible. That is why we are adopting many options which would be analysed before a final figure is reached.”