THE methodology used in conducting tiger
count in several sanctuaries and national
parks in India has currently come under
focus and has given rise to a stormy
debate. The focus has shifted from how
many tigers are there in the country to
what method should be adopted to
count the animal's population. At present
the census is taken by examining
pugmarks, which is increasingly being
held by many as 'inaccurate and cumber
some' as it is subject to human error.
"in the present circumstances, it is the best alternative. After all, the tiger is a shy and nocturnal animal, and one cannot just walk up to it and take its details," says the director of Corbett Tiger Reserve, R C Gautam. The method entails lifting tiger pugmark impressions along water courses and jungle paths. As every tiger has its distinctive pugmark, on examination, the impressions give a fair idea of the number of tigers that are present in the particular sanctuary. The 1993 census which was compiled after adopting such a method, put the tiger population of the country at more than 3,750.
Usually, pugmarks are traced during the dry season as rain does not wash them away. In places where there is no surface on which clear impressions may be obtained, special pug pads are laid, said R Talwar of the World Wide Fund for Nature-India.
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