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Centre to conduct combined elephant and tiger survey this year – Mrit News

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The new method will rely on robust scientific method based on statistical techniques to count the population of the animals in the Country

The new method will rely on robust scientific method based on statistical techniques to count the population of the animals in the Country

 The Central government will for the first time this year present a unified count of the tiger, leopard and elephant populations of the country, according to officials in the Union Environment Ministry.

The tiger survey is usually held once in four years and elephants are counted once in five years. According to the most recent 2018-19 survey, there were 2,967 tigers in India. According to the last count in 2017, there were 29,964 elephants in India.

Last year, Bhupender Yadav, Union Environment Minister, on August 12, which is celebrated as World Elephant Day, made public the population estimation protocol to be adopted in the all-India elephant and tiger population estimation in 2022.

He had then said there was a “pressing need to improve and harmonise the population estimation methods along more scientific lines in various States across India,” to estimate animal numbers.

Elephant numbers would be estimated by States based on DNA analysis of their dung droppings and statistical techniques. Tigers are counted by deploying camera traps, identifying individuals based on stripes, as well as statistical analysis.

Tiger scat and its DNA analysis is usually used only when camera traps are impractical to deploy say, in difficult terrain, said Y. Jhala, wildlife scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and an expert on wildcat surveys. Because elephants are more than tigers and hard to tell apart from camera-trap images alone, it’s more economical and feasible to use their dung for identification, he added.

The ‘head count’ method, or one currently deployed to count elephants was “obsolete” and frequently led to animals being double counted, he added.

In 2017, the Union Environment Ministry reported that there were 27,312 elephants on average in the country, according to figures collated from 23 States, a decline from the 29,576 elephants recorded as the mean figure in 2012. However, in 2019, it emerged that Kerala may have under-counted almost 2,700 elephants in the latest elephant census and the updated 2017 figures showed 29,964 elephants on average, or a slight increase from 2012’s mean.

This was because Kerala initially relied on a direct count method and then switched to an indirect method when the count showed a decline in its elephant population.

“Resources, time and energy will be saved from having a common estimate. This is the first time that a robust scientific method based on statistical techniques will be implemented. 80% of the area occupied by both animals is similar and we have been estimating elephant numbers this way earlier too. This time we will be revealing those numbers,” said S.P. Yadav, Director of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

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