But Pariwakam and others question Sawarkar's claim that 20 tigers may be living in Sahyadri.
"The absurd pug-mark [paw print] census method that was used in the past to come up with specific tiger numbers like this now stands discredited," said K. Ullas Karanth, a tiger expert and director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's India branch.
(Related news: "Faulty Counts May Have Hurt India Tigers, Experts Say" [August 7, 2003].)
"I don't see any data in support of this number," Karanth added.
Yet Sawarkar is confident that an ongoing state-of-the-art tiger census, conducted by WII, will officially confirm his estimate.
The WII census—the results of which should be released by late 2007—is unprecedented in its use of new tiger-tallying techniques.
For example, scientists are using strategically placed cameras fitted with motion sensors to count passing tigers.
Preliminary estimates based on the census suggest that India's wild tiger population numbers between 1,300 and 1,500, less than half of what it was in 2002.
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