India started the all-India tiger census 2018, the largest survey of wildlife anywhere in the world. In this national tiger census, India will use more technology, including a mobile app MSTrIPES, with more intensive ground coverage and a higher focus on the northeast to determine the country's tiger numbers.
The census will not be about the tiger alone. The 2014 census had resulted in the first-ever estimate of India's leopard population, which was put at 11,000. This exercise will go further and will give the estimates of various carnivores, ungulates and other animals in India's forests.
Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh to be part of India’s tiger census
India’s tiger census will see coordination with Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh in estimating the territorial spread of the animal in the subcontinent. While India has engaged with Nepal and Bangladesh in previous tiger counts, this is the first time all countries are uniting in arriving at tiger numbers, particularly in regions with shared borders.
Tiger census 2018
Tiger census 2018 is commissioned by the Union Environment Ministry’s National Tiger Conservation Authority. The census will be Rs.10 crore exercise, which will involve 40,000 forest guards traversing 4,00,000 sq. km. of forests; wildlife biologists will independently assess them; approximately a year’s duration of fieldwork; 14,000 camera traps; and coordination with 18 States.
Along with tigers, the survey also collects information on the prey population of deer and other animals.
Forest guards have Android phones and an app MSTrIPES for the first time to store data. The app will record the staff's path through the forest and help upload geo-tagged pictures into the central database. This will make the exercise speedier and more accurate.
This year's count will use 14,000 camera traps for capturing tiger images, 4,300 more than in 2014. Individual tigers are identified from camera images through a software that records the animal's unique stripe pattern.
The last census in 2014 had identified 1,685 tigers, 76% of the total, through images from camera-traps deployed in forests across India.
The census results are likely to be announced early next year.
Tiger census 2014
Since 2006, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), a Union Environment Ministry funded body, has been tasked with coordinating the tiger estimation exercise. The last census, in 2014, had estimated India's tiger population at 2,226, up from 1,706 in 2010. It is expected that the growth trend will continue.
The Indian Government launched M-STrIPES (Monitoring system for Tigers – Intensive Protection and Ecological Status), a software-based monitoring system at tiger reserves across the country on 14 April 2010. The objective is to strengthen patrolling and surveillance of the endangered tigers.
The system consists of two components a) field based protocols for patrolling, law enforcement, recording wildlife crimes and ecological monitoring, and b) a customized software for storage, retrieval, analysis and reporting.
Currently law enforcement and ecological monitoring are being done, but the information generated is ad hoc and rarely available in a format for informed decision making. The “MSTrIPES” addresses this void and is a tool for adaptive management.
The system uses a holistic approach by integrating ecological insights obtained through the standardized tiger, prey, and habitat assessment protocols (Phase I) to guide protection and management. It enables managers to assess intensity and spatial coverage of patrols in a GIS based tool.