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Tracking tigers through pugmarks is ' most' reliable.

INDIAN researchers have developed a method to count the number of tigers in any sanctuary by studying the animals' pugmarks and faeces.

Team leader Dr Yadvendradev Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India ( WII) claimed that using pugmarks to monitor tiger movement in sanctuaries is not as unreliable a method as it was previously believed to be.

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Ecology on Thursday.

Tigers are usually monitored either by their pugmarks or by using a method known as camera trapping. But the pugmark method has often been labelled inaccurate by experts.

On the other hand, only well- trained wildlife experts can handle the ' camera trap mark- recapture' and the process is heavy on the pocket.

It takes 720 person- days per site for camera trapping data collection and the process costs about $ 17,000 ( ` 7.65 lakh).

In contrast, the pugmark method takes only 220 persondays per site to collect data and costs $ 1,240 ( about ` 55,800), Dr Jhala said. He used the technique of tracking tigers by their pugmarks and faeces at 21 different locations in central and north India. The results thus obtained were compared with those got from the camera trap method.

Dr Jhala claimed the results showed that it was possible to accurately estimate tiger numbers from their paw prints and faeces.

Besides, tiger faeces may also be used to monitor the beasts, Dr Jhala said. " Tiger scat is usually the size of large beetroot and has a characteristic pungent, musky odour.

" Fresh tiger faeces is normally accompanied by urine sprays that smell like well- cooked basmati rice," Dr Jhala, the study's lead author, said.

These distinctive features also help them keep a tab on tiger population, he said.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Nov 22, 2010
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