Crouching Tiger, Hidden Data.
The fourth national tiger survey has generated much euphoria, whereas the first one in 2006 had cast a pall of gloom. However, missing from all the four survey reports are details necessary to assess the reliability of the tiger numbers.
A brief history of India’s tiger censuses can shed some light on this issue. The tradition of reporting tiger numbers dates back to the 1970s. These numbers were based on the ‘pugmark census method’, which simple-mindedly assumed that the pugmarks of every tiger could be found, recognised and tallied.
As scientific critiques showed, these assumptions failed, rendering the numbers meaningless. However, the forest bureaucracy (the Ministry of Environment and allied institutions) ignored the problem for decades.
India recently announced beautiful new tiger numbers. But since then the comments on the report and the real situation of Indian tiger conservancy are growing.
One of the main criticisms is about the used methodology. A beautiful video, even with the great and respected Sir David Attenborough starring, about explaining how India counted tigers now seems more and more as a decoy for the way India actually counted tigers.
This article shows that the Indian Government (Project Tiger – National Tiger Conservation Authority) is blocking any attempts to give insights on the counting itself.
It raises a lot of suspicion – fueled by comments of renown ecological statistical experts.
What has India to hide?