Held every four years, the All India Tiger Estimation-2018, in a first, will scale the height of 3,200 meters in Arunachal Pradesh’s Dibang Valley bordering China to scientifically assess the number of tigers there among other habitats of the big cat, officials said on Tuesday. Gujarat has also been included for the pan-India tiger estimation this year after the signs of tiger presence, like scat in sporadic regions, hinted at their presence towards the southern border of the state. During the last census in 2014, 2,000 meters was the highest point where camera traps were set to assess the tiger numbers. 

The government this year has set the northeastern region on priority, where earlier camera traps were not set except for some areas in Assam. “The highest altitude where we will install camera traps and do proper estimation includes Dibang valley in Arunachal Pradesh at height of 3,200 meters,” Prof Qamar Qureshi, senior scientist at Wildlife Institute of India (WII) told IANS here. “Earlier we estimated at least five tigers there, however, this time we are set to do the estimation scientifically for higher accuracy,” he added.

According to Sanjay Kumar, DIG, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary has been proposed to be converted into a tiger reserve, raising need of a proper census. “In the northeast, except places in Assam, scat or DNA sampling was done to estimate the number of tigers. Camera traps were difficult due to high vegetation, however, this time it has been prioritised,” Kumar told IANS. Of Gujarat, he said tiger population there is supposed to be transitional and not the source, which means that tigers might have passed from the region, however, it still calls for a census to get a clear picture.

Aiming for higher accuracy the number of camera trap locations have also been increased from around 9,000 in 2014 to about 15,000 in 2018, said WII scientist Y. Jhala. The estimation will also assess the number of tigers living outside the tiger reserves. According to NTCA, about 28.8 % of India’s tigers live outside the tiger reserves.

With about 70 % of the world’s free-ranging tigers, India is home to 2,226 of this endangered species, of which about 640 are outside the tiger reserves.  For higher accuracy, the government has also decided to reduce the grid size, that will mean more camera traps. Officials said that earlier, there was a grid of 4 square km, which had a pair of camera traps but now this has been halved to 2 square km.

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