Monitoring Tigers in the Twenty-First Century India-Part VII


Monitoring Tigers in the Twenty-First Century India-Part VII

-Vinod Rishi

Here is the seventh part of an article published by Shri Vinod Rishi in The Indian Forester. Vol.136:10. Wild Life Special.  Shri Vinod Rishi is IFS – retd. and a Former Additional Director General of Forests (Wildlife), Govt. of India; E-mail: vinodrishi@rediffemail.com

(Continued from last month)

S.R. Choudhury’s Co-operation Tiger Census method (Choudhury, 1970a, 1970b. 1971, 1972a, 1979b) and Pugmark method (Panwar, 1979a) differed on several counts. The apparent similarity of the two methods is superficial and it ceases at the use of tiger-tracer for tracing pugmarks. The literature based comparison between the two indicates:

i.    Co-operation Tiger Census used spatio-temporal analysis of the signs and evidences of tigers and their territorial behavior to estimate status of tiger populations: “The parameters of the census are the strong territorial habit and the methodical movements of the average individual” (Choudhury, 1970b); the Pugmark Census method used tiger pugmarks as the primary index for estimating tiger populations in an area (Panwar, 1979a).

ii.    The tools used in Co-operation Tiger Census included a network of serially numbered Pad-impression Pads (PIPs) for providing uniform soil and ground conditions at all data collection sites to avoid the problem of tracing of representative pugmarks from variable soil substrates, and to facilitate transfer of data to a processing map; standardized Counting Sheets provided, besides other data entry spaces, a small rectangular frame on its front to mark the presence and absence in, or movement of tigers in the direction of the adjacent Counting Units; and carrying on its reverse a history matrix for the enumerator to log in, by place, date and time, the evidences or sighting of tigers over the week prior to the census exercise. Pugmark Census technique had done away with such an elaborate field level system of checks and cross-checks.

iii.    The Co-operation Tiger Census used bunching of tracing sheets by serial numbers of pad-impression pads and of Counting Sheets, which reduced the number of tracings to be compared at a time for elimination of duplication of counts. Pugmark Census method depended on personal judgment of skilled enumerators to eliminate duplication in counts from the examination of shape, length and breadth of pugmarks, and average stride and straddle of tiger, and required comparison of a large number of pugmarks at a time for eliminating duplication in counts.

(2)    Evaluation of the Census Data
A revisit to the Review revealed that there were basic errors committed in the analysis of the data. These were:

i.    Error in the Use Of 1972 Figures As A Bench-Mark for Calculation of Growth Rates:

a.    The census of 1972 did not give a complete picture of tiger population in India. It had missed quite a few tiger populations in the eastern and the north-eastern parts of India. Sankhala, the first Director of Project Tiger, made an estimate in 1972 placing the figure at 2,000 tigers in India (Sankhala, 1978). The tiger census of 1972 could not be completed in the Sunderban tiger reserve of West Bengal (4/5th of Sunderbans not covered), the Manas tiger reserve in Assam and the Simlipal tiger reserve of Orissa in eastern India. There were other areas in north-eastern India, too, where census had missed tiger populations, e.g., Mizoram recorded the presence of 15 tigers in 1977 as against no information in 1972; Manipur registered presence of 16 tigers in 1977 as against 1 reported in 1972. (Srivastava, 1979).

b.    New areas had been added to some tiger reserves after the 1972 census. For instance, Kanha National Park was expanded to 940 km2 by 1974 from an initial area of 318 km2 at the time of first all India census in 1972 (Panwar, 1979b). The numbers of tigers in such areas in 1972 as happened to get added to the earlier figure of 1972 for tiger reserves were not adjusted.

Because of the indeterminate, but substantial number of missed out tiger populations in the 1972 census, the use of incomplete census figures for calculation of growth rates from the complete census figures of 1984 was scientifically unsound.

-To be Continued

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