Dehradun: The country’s first tiger cell will soon take shape at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) campus in Dehradun. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the setting up of the cell will be signed between the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and WII on Saturday. The cell will house a database of tigers as well as DNA and stripes samples of the big cats from over 50 tiger reserves, and will aid conservation efforts by keeping an update on tiger numbers as well as tracking poaching incidents throughout the country.
YV Jhala, senior scientist at WII will head the cell. He will be supported by four other scientists. “The cumulative data of countrywide tiger assessment which WII has been compiling for more than a decade will now be institutionalized in the cell. In addition, the cell will also have a national tiger photo database which will be used for tackling poaching or wildlife crime incidents. For instance, if we have camera trap images of a tiger who is found dead or killed, then we can easily identify it by matching its stripes,” Jhala told TOI.
Incidentally, WII had a few months ago, matched four of the five tiger skins found from a poacher, with the images of the tigers once captured in Corbett Tiger Reserve. Jhala said that WII had been working at creating a stripes repository of tigers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh. In addition, it had also created a database of DNA samples. “DNA can help in broad identification of the region where the tiger is located, that is it can help determine whether the tiger is from central India or north India or the Northeast,” he said.
He added that the tiger cell will also give technical support to the Centre by “giving clearances to developmental projects in an area which has a tiger population.” “In projects where roads, bridges, power plants etc have to come up in a tiger area, we would suggest whether the project is feasible or not. If yes, then what are the ways to execute it with minimal damage to the area’s ecosystem.”