Bhopal: Authorities have started the official count of tigers in Madhya Pradesh, which lost 26 wild cats last year, as part of a nationwide exercise.
The first phase of All India Tiger Estimation (AITE) began Monday in all the tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh, a Public Relations Department official said Tuesday.
Besides tiger, the population of leopards and other wild and herbivorous animals will also be counted for the next seven days in the first phase, he said.
Apart from counting the pugmarks of tigers and other wild animals, a study of their habitat, food availability and plants, among others, would also be conducted.
Volunteers from various states along with Forest Department officers and employees are taking part in the counting. The entire exercise would be held in four phases - from February 5 to March 26, the official said.
Trained volunteers and subject experts of various states, including Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, are taking part in the national tiger census.
These volunteers include women and senior citizens. The PR Department official said the decision to include volunteers has been taken to ensure participation of the members of public in wild life management, increase quality of collected figures and bring transparency in the entire exercise.
According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) data, of the 98 tiger deaths in India in 2017, 26 were reported from Madhya Pradesh.
In 2016, 33 tigers died in the state, as per the MP Forest Department data.
While reacting to wildlife activists' concern over the high number of tiger deaths, Madhya Pradesh's principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Jitendra Agrawal had recently said they take prompt action when poaching incidents come to light.
"The state does not conceal the death of a tiger. Every death is reported. We (MP) had 257 big cats in 2010. The number went up to 308, according to the last tiger count in the country (held in 2014)," he said.
The state houses half a dozen tiger reserves and prominent among them are Kanha, Panna, Bandhavgarh and Pench.