Bhubaneswar: The biennial census of the big cat began today across different forests of Odisha, forest officials said.

The census will continue till February 22 and more than 900 cameras will be used to carry out he census, they said.

The state government has joined the National Tiger Census Authority (NTCA) to count the big cats inhabiting in forests of Odisha, a forest official said.

While 40 tigers were spotted in Odisha during the previous census in 2016, the forest and environment department expect the numbers to go up this time, the official said.

This time the government expects to find pug marks of more number of tigers at Chahala area in the southern part of Simlipal Tiger Reserve since tigers have been spotted there recently, Additional Chief Secretary of Forest and Environment S C Mohapatra said.

This is an encouraging sign, he said

This region was not inhabited by the big cats for many years, Mohapatra said.

Mohapatra also said that the proposed sanctuary in Sunabeda could not be covered during the last census due to Maoist attacks.

The core area has been divided into a 75 beats. Range officials, foresters, forest guards and protection assistants (PA) of at least seven forest ranges have been engaged in the census, Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) Field Director M Mohan said.

While the counting of tigers would primarily be held through camera trap and pug mark method, the NTCA, for the first time, has introduced a App called Monitoring System for Tiger-Intensive Protection and Ecological Status (M-STrIPES) to make the census error free.

The M-STrIPES App, developed by the Wildlife Institute of India, is expected to eliminate the error, which sometimes, is caused by camera trapping, Mohan said, adding, out of the total number of 900 cameras that are being used to take photographs of tigers, at least 350 cameras have been installed in Similipal.

According to 2016 tiger census report, the Simlipal Tiger Reserve (STR) had 26 big big cats. Besides these, the state has 14 tigers in other tiger reserves.

The tiger census this time would include Similipal, Sunabeda and Satakoshia forest divisions, a forest official said.