KOCHI: The forest department has kick-started the All India Tiger Estimation exercise in Kerala. The installation of camera traps in forest areas will begin on September 3. The tiger estimation is spearheaded by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in association with the state forest department and Wildlife Institute of India (WII). In north Kerala, the exercise will commence with training of frontline staff of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary at Sultan Bathery and Mananthavady on September 2. This will be followed by training for staff at Aralam and Kottiyur Wildlife Sanctuaries and Wayanad North, South and Kannur forest divisions. Parambikulam tiger reserve deputy director Vysak Sasikumar is coordinating the training programme. The installation of camera traps in forest areas will commence on September 3.
The state forest department will place camera traps in a pre-calculated grid pattern in select landscapes for a specified period. This is done to capture individual pictures of tigers, leopards and other carnivores that can be identified individually from their unique body patterns.
In the next phase, field staff of forest department will cover the forest area of the state extensively on foot through pre-designed line transects to sample the prey population. For this data is collected on ungulate encounter, dung counts, canopy coverage and vegetation. The Wildlife Institute of India will source remote sensing imagery to understand landscape characteristics and human disturbance in forests.
In south Kerala, the annual monitoring survey will be completed in a couple of days. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has already completed the exercise. After this the installation of camera traps will be undertaken. The data will be compiled at the state level and submitted to the NTCA, which will analyse the data compiled from across the country to prepare the final estimation report.
The Wildlife Institute of India has developed an android mobile app called ‘M-STrIPES’ for collection of data from the ground pertaining to prey, habitat and human disturbance. Parambikulam Tiger Reserve has been using this app since last year to monitor patrolling activities. The GPS enabled app is expected to improve the accuracy of data.