A monitoring program of the Forest Department for 2017-18 has found that the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS), a biodiversity hotspot in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, holds the largest tiger population in the State. More in news

  • The study was organized in association with the Parambikulam and Periyar Tiger Conservation Foundations.
  • The forest area in the State was divided into 10 landscapes and 1,640 camera traps were set up.
  • In-camera trap method, the population of tiger is counted by identification from photographs based on unique stripe patterns
Other methods to count tiger ·Pug Mark Method: In this method, the pug mark i.e. the footprint of the tiger is important. It is considered that each pug mark is unique in itself & by analyzing various footprints in the areas of tigers, the number of tigers in that area can be counted ·Poop/scat Method: In this method, the number of tigers is counted by poop/scat (droppings of the tiger). The poop is analyzed by DNA sampling and then we can arrive at a more accurate count. ·Radio Collar Method: Tigers are captured in this method & are fitted with a radio collar.
  • It took nearly a year-and-a-half to complete the project. Close to 500 trained front line forest staff participated in the endeavor.
  • The Nilambur North and South forest divisions were excluded from the study as camera traps could not be set up in the forests due to Maoist issues. These areas are expected to support a good tiger population.
Major Findings
  • Of the total 176 tigers in the State, 75 were identified from the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary (WWS), which is part of a large forest complex holding the single largest population of tigers in India
  • The Periyar and Parambikulam tiger reserves followed suit, where 25 tigers each were captured in camera traps
  • There are no tigers in the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjoining Kottayam and Kothamangalam forest divisions as the landscape are cut off from the adjacent mainland (Munnar and Malayattoor forest divisions).
  • The Kasaragod forest division is highly fragmented and degraded and does not show tiger evidence
  • Demographic simulation suggests that cubs (below one year) may comprise roughly 25% of a healthy tiger population. However, cubs are not included in the data as they have to reach three years of age (mortality rate of cubs is high).
Way Ahead
  • As the WWS and the adjoining tiger reserves in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu constitute a major tiger habitat in the country, the sanctuary has the potential to get the status of a tiger reserve.
  • Such a move would help get more funds to effectively implement projects to mitigate man-animal conflict in the area
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