View Full Version : Census in Sunderbans in winter to determine tiger count

Bibhav Behera
31-10-2009, 01:23 PM
With an Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) analysis raising doubts over the number of tigers in the Sunderbans, a fresh census of the big cat will be conducted this winter, says a Press Trust of India (PTI) report.
“A tiger census will be conducted in Sunderbans in winter after three years although dates are yet to be finalised,” Director of Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve (SBR) P. Vyas told PTI in Kolkata.

The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) which was asked by the West Bengal government to develop a software programme to process field data on tiger pugmarks, had claimed in July 2006 that there were only 75 tigers in the Sunderbans, a World Heritage site.

The state’s Chief Wildlife Warden S.B. Mondal, however, told PTI that the last census had put the tiger count at 274.
The ISI, he said, was entrusted with developing software for which it was given data of a few ranges. “Their claim that there are only 75 tigers is wrong.”
The Wildlife Institute of India, he said, was supplied data in 2006, but was yet to give the tiger count.
Meanwhile, the SBR director said, the census would be done on the methodology developed by the Project Tiger of the Government of India, besides radio collaring and collection of DNA samples of tigers at the Sunderbans.
It was planned to radio collar six tigers, Mr. Vyas said.
SBR sources said tiger estimation has been traditionally done in the Sunderbans by the ‘pug mark method’ in which the fresh impressions of the left hind pug were collected from the field and analysed.
The pugmark method was field friendly, but due to drawbacks, Project Tiger had developed a new methodology for monitoring tigers, co-predators, prey and habitat, the sources said.
The last census was conducted in the Sunderbans in 2001 that put the tiger population at 274, but since it was disputed in the ISI software analysis, the 2006 one was stalled.
Wildlife experts also disputed the forest department’s claim and said that the number of tigers would be much less than what was claimed.
Wildlife NGO, ‘Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society’, Secretary Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, who has long experience of working in the Sunderbans, said that the number would not be more than 100 to 110.

The article can be found at http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article38336.ece

Sabyasachi Patra
03-11-2009, 12:09 PM
Sundarbans is a tough environment. It is remarkable that the tiger has adapted to it nicely. Tiger densities are higher in places where the prey base is higher. From the records during the pre-independence era, we know that the density of tigers in the terai area was much higher.

It is a known fact that each tiger reserve and sanctuary kept on posting inflated tiger numbers to project that the sanctuary or protected area under their charge is doing well. The 270-300 number may be inflated. However, we should also remember that these are estimates and the word census is a misnomer. And in most of the cases these estimates are intentionally wildly off target.

The problem is that the forest dept. tries to justify that all is well and the tiger numbers are at around 275-300 and the researchers are out to prove that their new techniques of estimating are better. Unfortunately, the tiger doesn't benefit from this.


Lakshminarayanan Nataraja
03-11-2009, 12:48 PM
Sunderbans is a tough environment and it is a mystery how tiger is able to accustom in such a harsh environment.

During cyclones early this year, it was predicted that many tigers could have perished as several islets were inundated and salinity increased manifold time. (refer: Sanctuary Asia - August'09 edition).

Hope that the proposed census does not have any worrysome news about Sunderbans.