- Pug Impression Pad
Pug Impression Pads (PIP) have been widely used in India for census of tigers. [Choudhury, S. R. (1970). Let us count our tigers. Cheetal, 12(2), May, 1970: 41-51.] Choudhury, S. R. (1970) The Tiger Tracer. Cheetal, 13(1), October, 1970.] [Panwar, H. S. (1979): A note on Tiger Census Technique based on Pugmark Tracings. Indian Forester, Special Issue on International Symposium on Tiger, Feb, 1979:70-77.] These are small dust-pads of about 2cm thick, specially prepared on forest paths and animal tracks to change the texture of hard ground in the forest for obtaining good foot print impressions [Singh, L. A. K. (1999): A pocket book for forest guards: Tracking Tigers. WWF Tiger Conservation Programme, New Delhi, 39pp.] [Singh, L. A. K. (2000): Tracking Tigers : Guidelines for Estimating Wild Tiger Population Using the Pugmark Technique. (Revised Edition). WWF Tiger Conservation Programme, New Delhi, 38pp.]
A good quality glass plate, about 25cmx20cm in size, called a "tiger tracer", is used for drawing the outline features of the pugmark on the PIP. This tracing is then transferred to a protocol where over twenty pieces of other information about the PIP, the habitat, the
pugmarkand the direction of movement of tiger, etc. are recorded to help in analysis.
The number of PIPs, their locations and dimensions are such that an animal using the tract walks over it and leaves its pug impressions or spoor without itself getting disturbed. To cite an example about the usage, during the year 2002, in 71 tiger census units of Similipal Tiger Reserve 8946 PIPs were laid over 1773km of tracking routes, from which 764 pugmark tracings were collected along with 316 plaster casts.
The PIPs are laid in clusters of 2-3 along long roads or at junctions of different tracking routes in a forest. Each PIP bears an identification number, which helps during data analysis.
In recent days, some researchers are using ‘camera traps’ in place of PIPs for monitoring movement of tigers. The technique of using PIP and ‘pugmark tracking’, however, have the advantage that the PIPs can be created in thousands and made available 24-hours, for all days of census work, without incurring expenses to purchase costly equipments. The method provides employment to people living in and around tiger habitats who possess the traditional skill in laying PIPs and participating in animal tracking. PIPs have also been used for round-the-year monitoring of tigers. The Forest Guards performing census duties get a feeling of total involvement and obtain data about the tiger population, its composition and movement area revealed from PIPs. Often, elephants find the PIPs attractive for a dust bath. PIPs also get damaged due to strong wind, dew drops and rain. Therefore, PIPs need to be regularly monitored and maintained to get good pugmarks.
PIPs are like 'cameras' that remain open for 24 hours, everyday, during the study. The only maintenance they require is to wipe-clean it after each day's data are recorded.
Nocturnal animals which are difficult to be seen during the day also leave their tracks on PIPs and provide information about their distribution, density and activity. Beginners who wish to nurture their interest in animal tracks and signs, laying down a few PIPs and monitoring these every morning is a good approach. PIPs running alongside the garden fence can also give a wealth of information through tracks and signs.
* [http://assets.wwfindia.org/downloads/reading_pugmarks.pdf WWF India - Reading pugmarks - A pocket guide for forest guards]
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