Tiger Census Correct, says NTCA Refuting Oxford Researchers’ Flawed Methodology Roar

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) of India has refuted the claims of an Oxford University-led study that said the methodology used to count tiger population in India was flawed.

Asserting that the tiger population census was accurate, the NTCA challenged the wildlife experts’ study that is based on 2005 and 2011 data, ignoring latest methodologies employed by the tiger conservation authority, which it claims are currently the most efficient spatial models available.

TigerNTCA’s tiger census conducted in the month of January putting out a figure of 2,226 tigers or 30% increase in four-year period attracted criticism from a group of Indian and foreign wildlife scientists who said the figures have “no relevance to the 2014 tiger population and status estimation”.

The team consisting of scientists from Indian Statistical Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society and Oxford University, and headed by tiger conservation expert Ullas Karanth claimed that the ‘index-calibration’ procedure was flawed and it gave imprecise numbers.

Dr Ullas Karanth from the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: ‘We are not at all disputing that tigers numbers have increased in many locations in India in last 8 years, but the method employed to measure this increase is not sufficiently robust or accurate to measure changes at regional and country wide levels.’

The National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, constituted under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 for strengthening tiger conservation in the country and it holds tiger census every year and devises policies to end poaching of tigers. Every year, it carries out tiger census enumeration and releases the data using Index-calibration method, which was found inaccurate by the critics.

Index-calibration relies on measuring animal numbers in a relatively small region using reliable, intensive and expensive methods using camera trapping and then relating the measure to a more easily obtained, inexpensive indicator such as animal track counts by means of calibration. The calibrated-index is then used to extrapolate actual animal numbers over larger regions.

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