Sunday, September 26

Sunderbans tiger count up by 8 to 96: Bengal study

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With a comprehensive All-India Tiger Estimation report under way, West Bengal has come out with its own tiger estimation figure for Sunderbans for 2020 — barely nine months after PM Narendra Modi released the data in Delhi as part of the country-wide exercise.

The fresh study — phase IV tiger monitoring exercise — puts the count in the mangroves at 96, up by eight. The national data last July had pegged the number at 88.

While some say fresh data after a 9-month gap signifies little, others feel the number indicates the population is stable in the Sunderbans.

Releasing the data in Kolkata on Wednesday, forest minister Rajeev Banerjee said the Sunderbans (tiger reserve area and South 24 Parganas forest division) is now home to at least 96 big cats. “While 73 were camera-trapped in the reserve area (STR), 23 were photographed in the South 24 Parganas division.”

A senior forester said the department had used 600 pairs (1,200 cameras) compared to the 400 in 2018. “The mangroves were divided into 2 sqkm grids, each with two camera traps,” said chief wildlife warden Ravi Kant Sinha.

According to him, the population remains stable in the entire mangroves. “While 10 and 19 tigers were photographed in Sajnekhali and Basirhat ranges of STR, National Park East and West ranges are home to at least 24 and 20 respectively,” he added.

A source said four tigers captured during the 2018-19 exercise were not clicked this time and three that were not photographed during the last exercise have been clicked this time. The official said the number has risen mainly on the back of a few sub-adults that were not taken into account during the last exercise.

During the latest camera-trap exercise that started on December 10 and ended in February, cameras were placed simultaneously across all four STR ranges. The module was replicated when the exercise began in the South 24 Parganas division. The forest department gave 400 pairs of cameras and WWF India’s Sunderbans chapter the rest.

An official said the data reveals the tiger population may be very close to carrying capacity. “The exercises in 2018 and 2019 were quite precise. The population can improve if the prey base improves. Now it’s time to focus more on aspects like survivability, territory occupancy, prey base and strengthening protection measures,” he added.

 

Source: Times of India

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