April 15, 2010

India Hopes New Tracking Software Will Protect Tigers

Officials in India have announced plans to utilize a new tracking system to protect its endangered tiger population, according to an April 14 report by AFP.

The country's tiger population, which was estimated to 3,700 in 2002, has dropped drastically. There are currently believed to be less than 1,400 of the big cats remaining in the country, and according to what India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told the news agency, "lazy" wildlife field officers are largely to blame.

"They make up data instead of surveying the field," he added, noting that the new Monitoring System for Tigers' Intensive Protection and Ecological Status or M-STrIPES software should help keep better track of the animals while preventing both poaching and misconduct.

The M-STrIPES system, which was developed by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Zoological Society of London, will utilize radio collars and a GPRS tracking system.

India's government set up a national wildlife crime prevention department in 2008, and staffed former military soldiers to guard tigers in state-operated sanctuaries.

Despite those precautions, 35 tigers have been illegally killed ever since the beginning of 2009, according to the Wildlife Protection Society of India. The hunting of tigers and the trading of their parts are prohibited in India and 166 other countries, but many Asian nations covet tiger pelts, claws, and bones to create medicine, according to the AFP report.

"There are 39 Tiger Reserves in the country today. This system will ensure that the surveillance activities that are done by field director and his colleagues are based on ground level information," Ramesh said in a Wednesday press release, adding that the system will be implemented at six reserves within the next two months. Furthermore, a tiger census is scheduled to be completed in November.


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