Raipur: On the face of it forest officials have termed as "dud" the drive to ascertain tiger population in Indrawati Reserve in Chhattisgarh using CCTV cameras, but according to some the looming threat of Naxals is proving a major "hindrance" in recording the number of pug marks.

According to a senior official, maintaining electronic surveillance of big cats in the tribal-dominated Dantewada district has failed to take off, prompting the authorities to revert back to time-and-tested methods.

"Nearly two dozen CCTV cameras were placed in the reserve but it failed to properly spot the presence of tiger", Chief Conservator of Forest and Field Director, Indrawati Tiger Project, V Ramarao said in a statement.

"From January next, tracking cameras will be placed in limited areas to monitor movements of big cats. We will employ methods like impression pads and collecting pug marks", he said, adding the data gathered in two months will be sent to testing in laboratories.

According to the officer, while some cameras installed near water holes, ponds etc to track tigers failed to record proper data some were stolen, which resulted into no count of the national animal in the reserve. "Presently, we are going with two-three methods to ascertain the tiger population in which the first is often-used camera tracking technique. However, this (technique) is effective only within limited area and not in the entire tiger reserve", he said.

Among two other methods are 'tiger scent-marking' and to spread sand near water holes in forests to spot pug marks of the big cats. However, sources in forest department have admitted that the looming threat of Naxals in Bastar region has been proving to be a major hindrance in ascertaining the exact number of tigers in the Indrawati reserve.

"Strong presence of Maoists in Indrawati Tiger Reserve region has become a major headache in our efforts to count the exact number of tigers. Forest personnel are scared to venture into forest due to naxals, which has become one of the biggest hurdles in conservation activities as well", an officer said on condition of anonymity.


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