An app to get tiger numbers right

Field data collection for tiger enumeration in the country is set to go digital in order to reduce human error and provide more reliable estimates. In the forthcoming All-India Tiger Estimation, to be taken up in December-January, the authorities plan to eliminate the process of manual recording of signs of the carnivore and other habitat details.

Instead, an app named M-STRiPES (Monitoring System For Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) developed by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun will be used for the first time. Though the app has already been in place in some national parks, its usage and application have been made mandatory only now, for the fourth All-India Tiger Estimation.

It is a free app that will be made available to staff participating in the tiger census exercise, and they will feed in their observation during the carnivore sign survey and transect marking. Details such as pellet density, vegetation status and human disturbance, if any, will also be recorded.

Training for staff

The field staff and senior officials of the Forest Department will be trained on how to use the app at a programme in Bandipur and Mudumalai from December 5 to 7.

Use of the app in habitat monitoring is not new. Bandipur had Hejje or Pugmark, an Android-based app, while BRT started with Huli. The GIS-based app will give real-time data on forest habitats besides providing live update of monitoring and patrolling activities. But the nationwide introduction of M-STRiPES paves the way for greater standardisation and elimination of inconsistencies in data interpretation.

Counted every four years

The national tiger estimates are conducted once in four years, with the first conducted in 2006. That exercise pegged the tiger count at 1,411, with the statistical lower limit pegged at 1,165 and the upper limit, 1,657. In 2010, the count changed to 1,706, with 1,520 being the lower limit and 1,909 the upper limit.

In 2006, Karnataka accounted for 290 tigers, with a lower limit of 241 and an upper limit of 339. In 2010, the count was 300 tigers, with the lower limit pegged at 280 and the upper limit, 320.

The Western Ghat landscape, comprising Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Goa, accounted for 776 tigers in 2014, with the Bandipur-Nagarahole-Mudumalai-Wayanad complex harbouring 570 tigers — reckoned to be the world’s single largest tiger population in a landscape.

The last nationwide assessment, held in 2014, pegged the tiger figures across the country at 2,226. Karnataka alone was home to 400 tigers, a bulk of them in Bandipur and Nagarahole.

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