To the surprise of senior forest officials and conservationists, the much-awaited tiger census for 2021 started in a hush-hush manner in Bandipur Tiger Reserve on Tuesday. Information on the exercise was made public through a release by the head of the reserve, catching senior officials, including the head of forest force and Chief Wildlife Warden, by surprise. That is not all: members of the State Wildlife Board, wildlife wardens and conservationists said they were unaware the census had started.
Officials from the National Tiger Conservation Authority said as reserves have been given the liberty to chalk out their census calender as per convenience, it is better if dates and calendars are shared. BTR Director S R Natesh said the census field survey started on October 12, where carnivores, herbivores and flora and fauna are being assessed. It’s a paperless exercise and all information is being uploaded on the M-Stripe app.
Once the exercise is completed, information will be shared with the Wildlife Institute of India for documentation. Natesh said: “Camera trap method of assessment will be done later. The line transect assessment started on October 12. While no volunteers will be taken for the exercise, 25 experts are involved and 23 teams have been formed to cover 112 beats. The exercise will be completed by the month-end.” Senior officials in the head office said: “No permission was procured from us and we have not prepared the calendar or approved it. This form of working is not acceptable and this census cannot be accounted for as there were problems with earlier information uploaded on M-Stripe. So this will be accorded as part of training exercise.”
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, Vijay Kumar Gogi said: “Some areas were lagging behind in training, and work is on to complete it. So far, the calendar of events has not been chalked out. There is a need to synchronise work.” In a late development, after the head office and Forest Minister Umesh Katti were apprised of the confusion, BTR stated that the census was a trial exercise and is being done on pilot basis.