Kolkata: The annual tiger census in West Bengal's Sunderbans is scheduled to kick off on November 27 as part of the nationwide census focusing on big cat populations. The comprehensive camera trap exercise will unfold over a month in the Sunderban Tiger Reserve (STR), covering contiguous areas of South 24-Parganas district in the initial phase. The second phase will extend to other adjacent parts of the district. Engaging over 40 forest personnel and locals trained in camera technology, the census will deploy 1,500 strategically positioned cameras across 720 locations to monitor the movement of tigers.
In the latest count, the Sunderbans were home to 101 tigers, with 20 residing outside the STR in contiguous areas. The forest department has taken proactive measures to curb poaching, raise awareness among villagers regarding tiger protection, and bolster vigilance against poaching activities. Additional initiatives, such as releasing deer in the forest for tiger fodder, have contributed to the growth in tiger numbers from 96 in 2020-21 to 101 in the latest census.
The Sunderbans in West Bengal are divided between the STR and the South 24-Parganas forest division, encompassing 4,200 square km of the total 10,200 square km area. While pinpointing the precise tiger population may be challenging due to potential crossovers, the census offers valuable insights into the density of big cats in the world's largest mangrove forest.