On January 22, 2018, hundreds of volunteers will gather to participate in Telangana’s Tiger Census 2018. This event, which occurs once every four years throughout all states in India, will bring together several volunteers as they roam the forests of Telangana looking for signs of India’s national animal.
Tiger census has been conducted previously using three methods. The first is known as the Pugmark Census Technique, where pugmarks are recorded for identification.
DNA fingerprinting and camera trapping are other common ways in which tigers are identified. Tigers can also be counted through analysis of the scat left behind.
While the census will be conducted throughout India, Telangana stands out, as it is a newly formed state. According to Mr Sankaran, who is currently overseeing the organisation and training of volunteers, Telangana is a state which has a shortage of officials and has therefore opened its doors to volunteers from outside the forest department.
“When we have volunteers who come to us from NGOs or otherwise, the entire process becomes much more transparent,” explains Mr Sankaran.
Not only will volunteers search for signs of the tiger, but they will also record signs of human disturbance to the environment, counts of herbivores and other carnivores, including panthers, and even measure levels of ground cover.
Volunteers will work in teams of 2 or 3, walking 5-6 kilometres per day to gather data, along with designated forest officials.
“We will provide volunteers with the equipment and training they need. In fact, this weekend we arranged a session for our volunteers where they could sample the kind of field work they would be doing,” he says.
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According to Mr. Sankaran, other states follow similar structures, and the census is conducted using uniform parameters. The entire fieldwork process will take six days.
As of now, the state has 180 volunteers and is looking for more. Upon registration, the volunteers will be given a pamphlet highlighting the guidelines and will also be part of training sessions. Volunteers will also get to pick where they would like to be stationed, and officials will do their best to assign them to their area of preference.
If you are interested in registering as a volunteer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.