Tiger Monitoring Exercise begins with an exciting start in Manas Tiger ReserveSunit Kumar Das, a tiger biologist with WWF-India’s Brahmaputra Landscape has been monitoring tigers in the grasslands of Manas and the floodplains of the Brahmaputra in Assam for two years. As a Project Officer, he has been documenting the flagship species of the region and implementing the conservation programme of the Brahmaputra landscape. This year, he is also part of a team that is carrying out the All India Tiger Monitoring Exercise 2018 in Assam with the Assam Forest Department and Aaranyak.
On 8th January, the second day of the survey in Manas Tiger Reserve, Sumit was deploying camera traps when his team sighted a tiger. “At about 12:25 hours,while we were setting up camera traps, we saw a tiger at a distance of 300 meters. While we knew that it was at a safe distance, we were cautious of its presence and got into our vehicle and followed it as quietly as we could. The magnificent animal knew of our presence and swiftly changed its path and moved towards the dense vegetation nearby. When we thought we had lost sight of it, there it was standing merely 8 to 10 feet away from us. I quickly managed to capture few images on my camera."
“It’s not everyday that we get to witness a fascinating animal in the wild. I have always had a deep appreciation for people working in the forests to protect our natural wealth. As a tiger biologist, I’ve spend considerable amount of time documenting the movement of tigers in the forest of Central India, Chota Nagpur plateau, the mangrove forest of Indian Sundarbans, the Terai and in protected areas of Assam for more than8 years, yetI’ve seen the Bengal tiger only 6 times in the wild. “
Sunit along with 2 field assistants from the Brahmaputra landscape of WWF-India are part of the All India Tiger Monitoring Exercise which will be conducted over 3 months. As part of this survey, 3 ranges will be covered in Manas Tiger Reserve which also includes the first addition area of Manas NP, a 350 sq. km area will also be covered for the first time in the tiger monitoring exercise. The monitoring exercise in Assam will also cover four ranges of Kaziranga Tiger Reserve including the 6th addition area, which includes the Brahmaputra river islands. The exercise will be completed by March 2018.
While there were an estimated 14 tigers in Manas Tiger Reserve in 2016, its population has doubled to 30 tigers in a census conducted jointly by the Assam Forest Department, WWF-India and Aaranyak in early 2017, considered to be the highest population in Manas since 1989. As part of this exercise, the field methods employed for the estimation will involve camera traps placed strategically across tiger habitats. The data collected through such surveys will helpthe Assam Forest department, WWF-India and conservationorganisations in understanding the population of tigers in Manas and in preparing a robust tiger conservation plan. Efforts to secure the tiger numbers in the landscape will also contribute to the conservation of this diverse habitat which forms part of Transboundary Manas Conservation Area (TraMCA) covering India and Bhutan and towards achieving the goal of doubling wild tiger populations.