The much awaited 2018 tiger census report is likely to be delayed and will be released only after the formation of a new government at the Centre, an official said citing "huge data" which is to be analysed.
The four-yearly report, which gives out the number of big cats living in the country, was to be released this month, but officials say it is not expected before June due to addition of states in the survey, intense methods and delay by states in submitting the data.
According to Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII), an autonomous institution of the Ministry of Environment, the process of estimating tigers commenced late and it has been an elaborate exercise with minute details being taken care of so the report is likely to come out in May end.
"We are analysing the huge data. It will take time. It's definitely not coming out before a new government gets elected. The process of estimation began six months late this time. So the report is likely to come out by May end," Y V Jhala, a senior scientist in WII, said.
A wildlife official from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body of the environment ministry, said the delay was on the part of state governments in submitting their data to the Centre and due to the increase in the number of states from where the data is being collected.
"Number of states have increased this time. Nagaland, Manipur and Gujarat have been included this time besides the 18 tiger reign states. We started the process of tiger estimation from our side but submission of data from different state forest departments took time," DIG of NTCA Nishant Verma said.
This is the fourth cycle of the tiger census. The first was conducted in 2006, second in 2010 and third in 2014. A team of over 44,000 officials is working on the census this time with 55 biologists across the country, the WII scientist said.
NTCA's Verma said an intensive exercise is going on in Arunachal Pradesh which is also a reason why it is taking time.
"Intensive procedure going on in Arunachal Pradesh this time with polygon search method which involves tracking of paw signs of tigers in areas divided into 25 square km units. It takes time. There are local administrative issues as well. Now the submission of data is complete but now WII is working on analysis of the data," he said.
In the polygon research method, the faeces of tigers is collected with a technique which involves making polygons -- squares in this case -- of 25 sq km each in an area of 400 sq km in the northeastern region, and then physically going there and collecting faeces for genetic sampling. The method of collecting faeces is called 'scats'.
"We are expecting the report by June or latest by July. It will be released by the new government. We are focusing on areas other than tiger reserves also," Verma said.
As per the officials, the data has been collected and is now being analysed by the WII, which is NTCA's national partner.
According to wildlife officials, 'scats' is being conducted for the first time in uneven terrains like those in northeastern states, and naxal-affected areas, where installing cameras to capture the movement of tigers is tough,
Tiger faeces is being used for genetic sampling and estimating the big cats population for the 2018 Tiger Census.
The report will cover 18 tiger reign states with 50 tiger reserves along with areas beyond these reserves where tigers can be found.
According to the last survey conducted in 2014, the tiger count was 2,226.
Over 24,000 camera trap stations have been installed across the country to capture tigers, as per the experts.
The experts said this survey is a massive exercise that includes other species as well, including, leopards and lesser cats, but the focus largely remains on tigers.
The softwares being used for tiger estimation are - Spatially Explicit Capture Recapture (SECR), mobile technology M-STrIPES (Monitoring System For Tigers-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) and Extract Compare which helps differentiate between the stripes of tigers as each has a different pattern.
The census does not include cubs. Only adult tigers are counted.
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