The first annual tiger census at Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) is likely to start this Saturday.
Sources said the headcount of the big cats in the VTR would be done by the state environment and forest department. Similar counting will also be conducted at the neighbouring tiger reserves of Sohagi Barwa in Uttar Pradesh and Chitwan in Nepal.
VTR spreads over 901sqkm in the Bagaha block of West Champaran district, around 290km north of Patna. The reserve falls in the Terai region of the Himalayas and extends to Royal Chitwan National Park and Parsa Wildlife Sanctuary of Nepal in the north and Uttar Pradesh in the west.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India, would provide technical assistance to the census to be held in accordance with a National Tiger Conservation Authority mandate. The National Tiger Conservation Authority had suggested that instead of the previous model of counting tigers once in four years, the process should be an annual affair.
"Before 2006, tigers were counted by monitoring pugmarks. But there were several instances of faults in the process. In 2008 and 2010, the Centre, with assistance from Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, conducted tiger census in the VTR by using camera-trap method. The Centre in 2011 decided to count tigers at the state-level. This was termed as the Phase-IV census," VTR field officer Santosh Tiwari said.
"Following the Centre's order, the National Tiger Conservation Authority consulted the authorities of tiger reserves across the country and introduced annual census at the state level in November last year. The census was supposed to be done using camera trapping method for a better estimate of number of the big cats. The census at the VTR, however, could not be carried out because of unavailability of camera traps," he added.
Jimmy Borah, a national coordinator for Tiger Programme of WWF, India, said: "This would be the first comprehensive monitoring of tigers in the Terai arch area extending from Uttarakhand till Bihar and further to Nepal. WWF, India, is providing external assistance to the Bihar environment and forests department by contributing camera traps and preparing estimates of other animals as well."