Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Scientist points out loopholes in tiger census
New Delhi: It was a moment of celebration when the Environment Minister announced that India's tiger population has increased by almost 16 per cent. But now, leading tiger scientist Ullas Karanth has questioned if there were problems with the methodology used.
In a published paper, Karanth has stated, "Details now in public domain do not reveal critical information on tiger photo-captures at sampled locations, density estimation protocols used, and how these local tiger numbers were extrapolated across wider regions".
Karanth an expert in the tiger ecology is in fact credited with developing the famous camera trap method for counting tigers instead of the earlier method of using pugmarks which was scientifically inaccurate. He has also questioned the mathematics of the
Government in arriving at the magic numbers.
"What I find a bit unconvincing across the country is the fact that on one hand it is claimed that the habitat is actually shrunk by 22 per cent, while the population density has gone up by 50 per cent in the remaining occupied area. I don't think there was enough data to come to this conclusion," said Ullas Karanth.
Dr Gopal of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, responding to Karanth, has stated that four states of Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka have shown increase in tiger density thereby pushing tiger numbers higher.
On the allegation of not putting reports in the public domain, he said that the detailed reports are available on the Environment Ministry website.
"Dr Karanth and his associates consider anything that has not originated from them as 'Substandard Science' and fake selective amnesia," said Dr Gopal.
Even as the war of words continues between the tiger scientists, the Environment Ministry maintains that the figures are correct, while others say the focus needs to shift to active protection on the ground.