BALASORE: The authorities of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), spread over 2,750 sq km in Mayurbhanj district, have started a fresh census of the big cats in the national park from Sunday. It will continue till April 30.
Apart from the camera trap method, the officials have used the pug impression pad (PIP) method to count the big cats. The PIP method was last used in 2004, when STR had counted 101 tigers.
In a bid to avoid human interference, the entry of tourists has been banned during the census period and the park will reopen on May 1.
Though, in February, the forest officials had counted the tigers in Similipal along with 46 other forest divisions in the State, the signs in pug impression pads were not clear in STR due to heavy leaf-fall prompting the authorities to go for a fresh headcount.
As the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in its report released last year had contradicted the State Government’s tiger count and claimed that the number of big cats had come down drastically in the State, the State forest officials this time have installed more cameras to get the highest possible figure.
The census is being conducted in 135 forest beats under 19 forest ranges, including seven in core area and 12 in buffer zone. Trained forest personnel supervised by senior officials have been engaged for the purpose. The rigorous exercise is expected to put the prolonged row over tiger numbers to rest.
Deputy Director of STR Ajit Kumar Satpathy said altogether 500 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras have been installed inside the forest and about 450 staff have been deployed for the entire exercise. “We have also placed 12,500 PIPs in different locations and those will be analysed after the census is over,” he said.
The NTCA, after its tiger census through camera traps in 2014, had stated that the number of tigers in the State had come down over the years. According to its report, there were 45 tigers in the State in 2006 which came down to 32 in 2010 and 28 (23 in STR and five in Satkosia) in 2014.