Census begins in Sariska, Ranthambore to follow
JAIPUR, Friday 6th May 2011

JAIPUR: The forest department on Thursday began the census at Sariska tiger reserve despite knowing that there are just five tigers at the reserve. The same will commence at Ranthambore two days later.

While 150 persons would be involved in the fortnight-long exercise at Sariska, Ranthambore will see 600 people including staff, forest guards, NGOs and wildlife lovers participate in it. The census at both the parks will be done in stages. Pugmarks will be counted first followed by transit line survey for verification of herbivores and vegetative survey and finally the waterhole census.

In Sariska, the pugmark count will be taken from May 5 to 11, followed by the transit line survey from May 12 to 16 and the waterhole census on May 17 and 18. At Ranthambore, the pugmark census will be done from May 7 to 16, the transit line survey will be from May 9 to 12 while the water hole survey will be held on May 17 and 18. During this time, the timings for visitors to the park has been changed while on May 17 and 18 both the parks will remain closed.

But the pugmark census may just end as a formality as it has become an outdated process and often fails to provide correct details. Way back in 2005, when tigers went extinct in Sariska, the pug mark census had still counted their number at 25.

"It is an exercise in futility involving lots of people and money," said a wildlife activist. "What is the use of carrying out the pug mark census when we know that it gives false data. Everyone knows that there are 5 tigers at Sariska so why carry out the pugmark census there at all ?" he asked. However, the water hole census still found favour with the activists as it also gives details on other animals in the sanctuaries.

However, forest officials begged to differ. "There are other cat species like leopards in Sariska and the pugmark census can give an insight into it," said an official. In Ranthambore, the pugmark process will be done along with trap cameras.

"The pugmark census will be done just for an estimation and to know the regions where the tiger is treading. We are setting up trap cameras and the census will be done by it. The method will provide us some insight into the density of tigers at various zones," said an official.

Chief wildlife warden UM Sahai denied that the pugmark census was being done at Ranthambore. "We are just doing it for Sariska so that we can get an exact number of panthers that are there in the forest. For Ranthambore, we are just doing the camera trap method there is no point doing the pugmark census there," he said.