Here's a chance to count wild cats in the forest

Feb 20, 2012, 09:25 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav

Shortage of manpower pushes forest officials to seek help from volunteers for the wildlife census at Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Shortage of manpower pushes forest officials to seek help from volunteers for the wildlife census at Sanjay Gandhi National Park

If you are a wildlife enthusiast and feel at home in the forests, then here's a reason to smile. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) officials have invited volunteers to assist them in the wildlife census that will be conducted in the park and the adjoining Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) from February 23 to March 1.

Counting the animals: Wildlife census at the Borivli national park using
the line transect method will be commencing from February 23 to March
1. File Pic

The move comes in the wake of manpower shortage faced by the forest department for conducting the census.
Sunil Limaye, SGNP director and Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), said, "The 2012 wildlife census will be carried out using the line transect method, developed by the Wildlife Institute of India and National Tiger Conservation Authority. We want volunteers to participate in large numbers, and help us in this wildlife census."

Modern and better
In the line transect method behavioural patterns will be ascertained with the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) to establish latitude and longitude of a particular animal's habitat. In the past, the park authorities had been using old techniques like water hole method, pugmark tracking, identifying excreta and looking for leopard claw-marks on tree trunks to carry out the census.

Limaye said, "Everyday from 6 am to 12 pm, details will be recorded along the transact lines. We want students, field researchers and amateurs with a passion for wildlife and research, to volunteer for this cause."

A welcome change
Wildlife Activists Krishna Tiwari, who is assisting the forest department in census work, said, "Volunteers should participate in large numbers and help the forest department. The line transect method is highly sophisticated and gives a fairly accurate estimation of wildlife in the forests. It is good that the forest department has decided to do away with the old pugmark census method and adopt a new one."

Apart for the upcoming census, another one will be carried out between May to June and will be based on the old pugmark technique, when water holes dry up, forcing animals to congregate at man-made ponds and lakes. However, some officials feel that the effectiveness of census through water hole method cannot be trusted completely as animals, sensing human presence, stay away from such water bodies.

What is line transect method?
In the line transect method, an observer follows a track inside the jungle for a certain length, and notes down the number of animals on both sides of the track. The collected data is then fed into a computer and with the help of specialised software density of animals is recorded. Later, the final numbers are generated on an average basis. The line transect method is believed to be more scientific and accurate and is used in tiger reserves and national parks across the country.

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