India is home to over half of the world’s tiger population, and a steady rise in the numbers of the endangered species has been recorded in the country, in the last decade.
This is indeed great news compared to the ominous dip in 2007, which shocked many and almost pointed towards an unfortunate fate for the national animal.
In a bid to keep a check on the feline population and ensure that the numbers don’t dip any further due to poaching and hunting, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, conducts a tiger census every four years.
The entire process is split into two phases that includes sending forest guards and officials across 18 states to collect raw data based on pugmarks and scat, while biologists study the camera traps installed in forests and reserves.
Together, both samples are then correlated through M-STrIPES, which stands for ‘Monitoring System for Tigers— Intensive Patrolling and Ecological Status,’ and is a customised monitoring software that identifies every single tiger through its stripe marks.
However, this year, which marks the fourth All-India Tiger Estimation, will involve a more digitally equipped process with the aim of clinching more accurate results sans human error.
Now the concerned authorities will be collecting, archiving and assessing data through the newly developed mobile application of M-STrIPES.
The new system is almost identical to the initial technique of double sampling, except for the inclusion of the mobile app, which corroborates the manual sampling through an automatic recording of track logs of surveys and routes taken by both forest officials and biologists in their respective sample collection.
The app also automatically documents data on animal sightings with geotagged photographs and takes details like pellet density, vegetation status and human disturbance into account.
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“We will be able to improve the accuracy of the exercise with this digitisation. A new area that would be covered would be Northeast. So far, in the previous three surveys, it has been poorly sampled,” Wildlife Institute of India scientist YV Jhala said, reports Economic Times.
With the incorporation of modern technology, the authorities aim to make the world’s largest wildlife survey a more robust estimate of the tiger population, through standardisation, and eliminate the incoherent interpretation of data, in all aspects.