The Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP has come up with a system that facilitates visitors to identify its big cats by their features, contrary to the pan-Indian norm of denying open access to such details.

The national park in northeast Madhya Pradesh provides a tiger identification book on 24 tigers roaming in the 106-sq-km area that permits tourists. The printed manual lists photographs of each tiger in different angles, with their unique stripe pattern and other attributes.

Each of the 2,500-odd tigers in the country’s 49 reserves has a unique ID as per guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, but facts about the animals are not publicly available.

Deviating from the practice, the 1968-founded Bandhavgarh reserve in Umaria district permits visitors to identify tigers by describing their distinct stripe markings — and even know their lineage, local name, year of birth and litters borne in the case of females.

Informing this, Bandhavgarh reserve field director K Raman said it was a first for the country. “The `300 book serves as a guide for tourists and a record for the department regarding tiger sightings,” he told HT. “Now with the help of tourists, we can ensure more accurate reporting and strengthen monitoring efforts in our reserve which has one of the highest tiger densities in the country.”

Won’t sharing tiger identities make things handy for poachers? No, says Raman, pointing out that the book features only 24 tigers largely seen in the core. The Bandhavgarh reserve along the Vindhya-Satpura ranges of central India has a total of 61 adult tigers and 12 sub-adults living across its steep ridges, undulations, forests and meadows.

“We came up with the tiger identification book for two reasons,” reveals the official. “First, there were many myths and wrong information about tigers in Bandhavgarh, which reports man-tiger conflict. We wanted tourists to know about each tiger they see and get complete information about it and its past.”

Second, tourists at the reserve share in social media their photographs of the tigers. “Now they can accurately say that they saw or photographed this or that particular tiger,” Raman points out. “Such information will help us track the tiger movement in the park’s tourism zone. We can generate a record based on such sightings.”

Raman recalls he first sought permission from state forest department, following which he urged wildlife photographers to share their tiger photographs to bring out the identification book. “It gives credit to the photographer,” he adds. “The book has got good response. We will have to go for reprint shortly.”

The identification book project constituted a board of editors that included assistant conservator of forests (Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve) SS Sendram, Wildlife Institute of India senior research fellow B Navaneethan and Vidya Venkatesh from Last Wilderness Foundation besides Raman.

The book is being sold through the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve Workers Society that comprises its field staff and other employees. The money collected will be used for their welfare as they are the people who are working at the ground level,” says Raman