Saturday, April 2, 2011


03 April 2011

A few days back the result of monitoring tiger was released in New Delhi. Developed on the foothold of a concerted and sustained criticism since 1990s of the previous results and the 33-years old method of census of tiger, the new method and the results, nonetheless, generated a lot of discussions and objections during 2008, when the product of the process started in 2005 were released for managers to use, and field staff to understand.

While the issues were not settled and managers were adopting their own approaches to answer public forums, the new result of 2011 showed an increase in adult population by 295 tigers. That is a matter which appears to cheer about. This, however, also continues to raise new questions, and aspects about deficiencies in the new method, its faithful and complete implementation in the field, a similar level of analysis, and the acceptability of the results to the field staff and managers. As expected, the results have engendered another spree of discussion in the local media, in print as well as in electronics.

I have started to realise that apparently the transparency of a scientific method needs to be given a back-seat in certain cases. The details about a population, the details about their spatial occupancy may cause managerial hurdles that spring up from poachers, or some unwarranted inconveniences which are difficult to overcome for smooth management.

Hence, the gross densities in place of absolute numbers with population composion, a landscape in place of finer aspects of spatial occupancy and movement areas, etc may take over as new norms of acceptable preferences.

This then leaves me to ponder, should a scientist with his innumerable collaborators in the field spend years of hazardous hard field work and irreparable sacrifices in pursuing scientific truth and in developing a technique that reveals so much details of the ground situation that it is fit only to be shelved back to obscurity!