The state forest department will install camera traps in all four tiger reserves in Maharashtra to know the number of tigers and their prey population. Two cameras will be placed every 5 sq km.
It will be part of the phase IV, all-India tiger estimation exercise across 41 protected areas in the country. The four tiger reserves where camera traps will be installed in the state include Melghat, Pench, Tadoba-Andhari and Sahyadri. Camera traps, also known as trail cameras, are used to capture images of animals in the wild with little human interference.
S K Khetarpal, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Maharashtra, told TOI that the three phases of the exercise which have been completed gave the tiger population landscape-wise, but not wildlife sanctuary-wise. Hence, the phase IV exercise will estimate the minimum population of tigers in the reserves.
About 800 camera traps will be needed for the four reserves. The exercise will start from the second week of January and the camera traps will be placed for 40-45 nights. "The camera traps will help us know the minimum tiger population in protected areas.We will also follow the line transect method. There will be continuous monitoring by forest guards in reserves to get information about poaching or other illegal activities for conservation efforts," he said.
Remote cameras are used in sample sites to take pictures to estimate tiger population and density.A self-portrait of the tiger is generated when it passes in front of the camera trap.
Since the stripes of each tiger is unique, like fingerprints in a human, it is able to identify individual tigers from their photographs. "This is for the first time that camera traps will be placed in all the tiger reserves across the country.We will float tenders to procure the cameras.We may not get 800 camera traps, but the exercise will be carried out across the country between January and March 2012, simultaneously.
We will place the camera traps as they become available,'' he said. The National Tiger Conservation Authority will conduct a regional workshop for capacity building of forest staff on December 28 and 29 in Panna tiger reserve.Analysis will follow after the data is collected.