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

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

-Vinod Rishi

Here is the ninth 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)

Part IX

(3) Evaluation of the Experiment
A great amount of skepticism about the findings from the experiment was voiced but not documented. The source of skepticism will be apparent from a revisit to the experiment conducted in the zoo.
i.    Flaws in the concept and design of the experiment:
Prima-facie, the errors and incongruities in the premises crept into the design and conduct of the experiment. The ambiguity in the basic premise prevents the association of the experiment with either of the field methodologies.
a.    The design of the experiment did not follow either the Co-operation Tiger Census method or the ‘Pugmark Census’ Technique in its approach. Choudhury had emphasized that “the tiger pugmark is one of the reliable parameters when the impression is true in size and features, which happens on thin powdery surface soil … a pugmark of a tiger taken from sand or fluffy soil cannot give reliable comparison with that of another tiger taken from thin powdery surface soil” (Choudhury, 1970b). The experiment by design presented pugmarks on two substrates for testing the participants and making a conclusion about the methodology.
b.    The claimed length of experience of the participants should have been established beyond doubt. In practice, Project Tiger organized tiger census once in four years at National level and once in two years at State level. For the participants to acquire experience of 4 to 6 census years they would have had to spend a minimum of 7 to 11 years on postings in tiger conservation units. Similarly, for the experience of 12 census years the said participant would need to spend 23-24 years on such posting(s). Given the tenures normally allowed by the government to the wildlife managers there is a chance that the reported length of experience with tiger census was misrepresented. Some of the participants may have had experience with census work on only one or two occasions!

ii.    Flaws in the conduct of the experiment
a.    The experiment stopped at asking the participants to identify tigers from a single parameter – the pugmark. The experiment did not provide the participants with the range of information used in either the ‘Co-operation Tiger Census’ technique, or the ‘Pugmark Tiger Census’ technique for elimination of human bias and duplication in counting tigers. The missing parameters were: location from where pugmarks were collected, the average stride and straddle of the tiger, and the placement of the tigers’ pugmarks with respect to the direction of their movement. Inadequate data was presented as a part of the design of the experiment.
b.    No replications of the experiment were carried out – the interpretation of results was made from a single sample survey.
(a)    In the experiment a serious anomaly was visible: 70% of the participants had made statistically significant correct choices in distinguishing the sex and the pugmarks of tigers, yet they had completely failed in identification of individual tigers and tiger counts. There was an imperative need to further investigate into the source of anomaly. Scientific research protocol also demanded replication of experiment with different sets of participants.
(b)    Replications with different set of participants were also called for since tiger census was being practiced in other States, too. It would have eliminated any chance of the participants having been exposed to a non-standard method. But there was no such replication of the experiment.

(To be continued)

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