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Bhutan shows the way how to dou­ble wild tigers

pub­lished 11 Novem­ber 2017 | mod­i­fied 11 Novem­ber 2017

Bhutan globeAlthough small in size and still to be con­sid­ered a devel­op­ing coun­try, Bhutan sets an exam­ple for the world to fol­low when it con­cerns pro­tec­tion of their cul­tural prop­erty. So, it is no sur­prise Bhutan already real­ized the dou­bling of wild tigers in part of the country.

A big win for tiger con­ser­va­tion efforts, the pop­u­la­tion of the endan­gered cat has dou­bled in Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) in just 6 years, as per the lat­est offi­cial study of tigers in the area.

From only 10 indi­vid­ual tigers in 2010, the num­ber has risen to 22 tigers in 2016, a step toward achiev­ing the global mis­sion of dou­bling wild tigers by 2022 (the TX2 goal). The study also indi­cates that RMNP could arguably hold one of the largest con­tigu­ous tiger pop­u­la­tions in the country.

Singye Wangmo, the Offi­ci­at­ing RMNP Park Man­ager, cred­its the increase to the great team­work and lead­er­ship of the Royal Gov­ern­ment of Bhutan to pro­tect the endan­gered cat and dou­ble its pop­u­la­tion by 2022. “The com­bined efforts of front­line foresters, strong trans­bound­ary col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Indian coun­ter­parts, coop­er­a­tion by local com­mu­ni­ties and the unstint­ing sup­port from the Royal Gov­ern­ment of Bhutan and WWF has made it pos­si­ble in achiev­ing this remark­able feat,” Singye said.

tiger juvenile bhutanJuve­nile Tiger in Royal Manas National Park.
© DoFPS/​WWF Bhutan

Accord­ing to offi­cials, pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion to the crit­i­cal tiger habi­tats and main­tain­ing the eco­log­i­cal and genetic via­bil­ity of tiger pop­u­la­tion in RMNP and across Trans­bound­ary Manas Con­ser­va­tion Area (TraMCA) is essen­tial in real­iz­ing the global con­ser­va­tion goal of dou­bling tiger pop­u­la­tion by 2022.

Pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion to the crit­i­cal tiger habi­tats backed by sound eco­log­i­cal knowl­edge on tiger pop­u­la­tion dynam­ics and their prey will be cru­cial for ensur­ing their per­sis­tence and of other wildlife species.

Phento Tsher­ing, Direc­tor of Bhutan’s Depart­ment of Forests and Parks Services

While the pro­tected area is increas­ingly eulo­gized for its rich bio­di­ver­sity, the chal­lenges to the eco­log­i­cal integrity of the land­scape are per­va­sive. Wildlife poach­ing is emerg­ing as one of the promi­nent threats to the bur­geon­ing tiger pop­u­la­tion in RMNP,” added Phento Tshering.

There is indeed much work to be done if tigers are to be saved. Once found in diverse habi­tats across Asia, the world’s wild tiger pop­u­la­tion has shrunk by over 95 per cent in the last cen­tury due to ille­gal tiger trade, poach­ing and habi­tat loss. Today, the world is at risk of los­ing this iconic species com­pletely, with as few as 3,890 tigers remain­ing in the wild.

In the face of increas­ing ille­gal wildlife trade, habi­tat loss and human-​wildlife con­flict, it is imper­a­tive that tiger pop­u­la­tion is sci­en­tif­i­cally assessed and their trends mon­i­tored,” said Dechen Dorji, Coun­try Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of WWF Bhutan. “Link­ing sci­ence with on-​ground con­ser­va­tion through such sci­en­tific mon­i­tor­ing of tigers is imper­a­tive in gaug­ing the suc­cess of all of our con­ser­va­tion inter­ven­tions,” he said.

Dechen said that a holis­tic approach to mon­i­tor­ing wildlife pop­u­la­tion that includes assess­ment of preda­tor and prey pop­u­la­tion as well as their habi­tat are crit­i­cal ele­ments for effec­tive conservation.

Real­iz­ing the need to estab­lish proper sci­en­tific infor­ma­tion on tiger ecol­ogy for effec­tive con­ser­va­tion and in ensur­ing the via­bil­ity of wild pop­u­la­tion of pri­or­ity species, a long term sci­en­tific mon­i­tor­ing of tigers in RMNP was ini­ti­ated since 2011 under the aegis of TraMCA and Ugyen Wangchuck Insti­tute for Con­ser­va­tion and Envi­ron­men­tal Research (UWICER).

The joint sci­en­tific mon­i­tor­ing of tigers between RMNP and Indian Manas National Park, which also forms the core of TraMCA is a tes­ti­mony to a suc­cess­ful trans­bound­ary con­ser­va­tion effort to safe­guard tigers in the wild,” said Singye Wangmo, Sr. Forestry Offi­cer and Offi­ci­at­ing Park Man­ager in RMNP.

She said that the pres­ence of healthy breed­ing tiger pop­u­la­tion linked together with tiger habi­tats of three other pro­tected areas in Bhutan via Phib­soo Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and Jomot­sangkha Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary, and Manas National Park in India makes RMNP a poten­tial ‘source site’ for tigers. RMNP is also one of three sites in Bhutan that is pilot­ing the Con­ser­va­tion Assured Tiger Stan­dards (CA|TS) — cur­rently the high­est global stan­dards for effec­tive site-​based man­age­ment for wild tigers.

Con­ser­va­tion Assured | Tiger Stan­dards (CA|TS)

CA|TS is a con­ser­va­tion tool — intro­duced in 2013 — to set min­i­mum stan­dards for effec­tive man­age­ment of tar­get species and to encour­age assess­ment of these stan­dards in rel­e­vant con­ser­va­tion /​pro­tected areas. CA|TS was devel­oped by tiger and pro­tected area experts. CA|TS aims to be a key ele­ment in real­iz­ing the ambi­tious goal of dou­bling the global tiger pop­u­la­tion by 2022; a com­mit­ment made by all 13 Tiger Range Coun­tries (TRC). Devel­oped by WWF and part­ners, the Global Tiger Forum (GTF) has endorsed CA|TS and has requested mem­ber coun­tries to estab­lish National Review Com­mit­tees for pur­pose of ini­ti­at­ing CA|TS. Of the 13 tiger range coun­tries Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Rus­sia have reg­is­tered and rolled out CA|TS, whilst dis­cus­sion is ongo­ing with Bhutan, Indone­sia, Thai­land, Malaysia and China. Cur­rently there are two sites that are CA|TS approved: Chit­wan National Park in Nepal and Sikhote-​Alin Nature Reserve in Russia.

Two joint trans­bound­ary tiger mon­i­tor­ing reports were released in 2011 and 2016 respec­tively. The TraMCA tiger photo data­base has a record of 57 unique indi­vid­u­als and 13 tigers are found com­mon in both the pro­tected areas.

(Source: WWF Global news release, 09.11.2017)

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Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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