This apart, areas where traps worked successfully last year, will also be included. Devised by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the traps are believed to be an important tool in assessing the number of tigers in Sunderbans which has remained a mystery.
It will be the biggest technological exercise undertaken at the mangrove forest so far. The areas where the traps worked successfully last year will be included as well. Devised by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the traps are believed to be an important tool in helping to arrive at the number of tigers in Sunderbans which has remained a mystery.
“The traps worked very well last time. They not only filmed the tigers, but also detected at least two species, including leopard cats, which were not known to exist in the Sunderbans. This time, the WII has been working on an improved version of camera traps that will be even sharper and more effective. We don’t yet know how much better these cameras are going to be. But we expect them to be even more effective than the ones used last time,” said SS Bist, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF).
Initially, 230 cameras will be placed at the Basirhat, Sajnekhali and East ranges of the forest which were not covered last year. As many 230 cameras will be installed across the Basirhat, Sajnekhali and East ranges of the forest. These were not covered last year.
“Subsequently, we shall have more cameras installed in the South 24-Parganas division that was covered last time. It will give us a fair idea about the number of tigers in these areas,” said SB Mondol, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife).
An effort to produce radio-collars for tigers has also been revived by the WII. The new ones are being devised following more research on the Sunderbans terrain. Four years ago, several collars had been mounted on tigers but they stopped functioning after a short period. “Unlike the dry forests, Sunderbans is not suitable for collaring tigers. It’s muddy and has rivers which make the collars malfunction.
The WII has worked on an improved version that will survive the Sunderbans terrain. We hope to have them soon. Along with the camera traps, it will aid the tiger counting process,” said Bist.
With the help of the WII, the forest department has been able to devise methods of was still working on finetuning the method of identifying tigers through photographs. With the help of the WII, it has been able to devise methods.
“When you use cameras, there’s always the possibility of the same tiger being clicked more than once. We need to identify tigers from photographs which we have been able to do. It could be improved further.
But camera traps have been invaluable. They have given us access to the remotest areas of the forest where monitoring was impossible otherwise. There could be no better way of tracking tigers in Sunderbans and will give us valuable inputs on the behaviour of big cats in the forest,” added Bist.
In February, the camera traps captured a mysterious cat which was later discovered as a leopard cat. that led to speculation about a new species being discovered at the Sunderbans. Later, analysis of the photographs revealed that. The animal was a leopard cat that had not been sighted in the Sunderbans prior to that. It was identified from its tail.
“More importantly, it will give us inputs on tiger behaviour. In areas where straying is frequent, we can have an idea if tiger density is the reason. We could then release straying tigers in other areas where density is low. It will help to bring about a balance.
Traps could also be used to monitor prey animals,, an exercise which will begin soon said Bist.
The concentration of prey animals in a particular zone is the best indicator of the number of tigers in an area, he said. “We have never been able to arrive at the number of prey animals since it’s difficult.
So far, we have depended on guesswork based on sightings which is not a scientific method. But it’s important to know the number to have the right tiger count.
The WWI is drawing up a methodology which could be used by us. It would involve the use of technology, similar to the ones being used to count tigers. We shall have a better idea within a month,” said Bist.
The prey base at Sunderbans includes deer, wild boars, gazelles and even fish and crabs. Since each big cat consumes around 50 animals a year, a base of 6000 animals is believed to be ideal at the forest which has an estimated 100-120 tigers.