‘Doubling tiger nos in 6 yrs possible’

Apr , 2016- The existing forest habitats in the 13 tiger range countries, including Nepal, still bear good potential for doubling the number of the wild cats in the next six years, according to the findings of a new analysis of global tiger habitat.

Using satellite data to monitor the long-term analysis of the forest cover change between 2001 and 2014, the international research team found forest loss across the 76 major tiger landscapes, including the protected areas and biological corridors in Nepal, was nearly 79,000 square kilometres (7.7 percent of the remaining habitat), far less than anticipated, and enough to sustain the doubling by 2022 as targeted in 2010.  The current global tiger population is fewer than 3,500 individuals.

Though the study did not consider the adverse effects of poaching and prey loss within these major tiger habitats, it is aware of three major challenges to tiger survival and recovery–habitat fragmentation and loss, prey depletion and poaching, said Anup Raj Joshi, lead author of the research paper titled “Tracking Changes and Preventing Loss in Critical Tiger Habitat” published in Science Advances, a peer-reviewed scientific journal last week.

“We can still achieve the international goal of doubling the wild tiger populations by 2022, but to reach this goal will require that any significant future tiger habitat loss is prevented, key corridors are restored between remaining forest fragments, nations implement green infrastructure to prevent habitat fragmentation, and translocation and reintroduction of tiger populations is carried where necessary,” the research further states.

“This paper focused on current state of tiger habitat across the entire tiger range countries. It provides tools for tiger range countries, to monitor tiger habitats for free, by bringing cutting-edge technologies to the finger tips of anyone interested in tigers and has an access to the internet to analyse and monitor tiger habitat,” Joshi added.

The research paper that look into nine officially demarcated trans-boundary corridors of the Terai Arc Landscape in Nepal that support important tiger meta populations, found that Basanta corridor in Far-West Nepal showed forest loss of 0.7 percent in the total 652 square kilometres between 2001 and 2014, while the Khata corridor joining Bardiya National Park with protected areas in India showed forest gain of 2.7 percent in the total 81 square kilometre area during the same period.

Overall, with the exception of two corridors, there has been little forest loss in other trans-boundary corridors and protected areas in Nepal.

The occupancy surveys in the Tarai region conducted between 2009 and 2014 indicate an increase in tiger population in four of the five protected areas, with the overall increase in 61 percent in tiger populations, the paper said.

The last nation-wide tiger count conducted in 2013 put the total tiger population of Nepal at 198, an increase of 63 percent compared to 2009.

Despite lower than expected levels of forest loss within tiger habitats and possibility to double by 2022, the survival of tiger is Nepal is threatened more than ever now, due to poaching.

More than 14 tigers are killed by poachers between January 2015 and February 2016 in the country. “We are going through one of the most challenging phases in tiger conservation.

The increased poaching activities has raised serious question over the conservation and enforcement measures on protection of tigers, and we need proper measures to deal with it,” said Maheswar Dhakal, deputy director general at the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

Losing the stripes
High demand for tiger parts is fuelling poaching. Some prized parts include
  • Pelts: Sell for up to $16,000 for one
  • Bones: Used in traditional medicine
  • Penis: Believed to increase male potency according to some traditions
Over 95 percent of the world’s tiger population has vanished since the turn of the 20th century. Besides poaching, there are other reasons why the number of wild cats is dwindling
  • Deforestation for pulp, paper, palm oil plantations
  • Habitat fragmentation from dam, road constructions
  • Destruction of mangrove forests as a result of climate change
  • Human-tiger competition for habitat
Saving big cats 
Tiger populations (2013 census)
  • The last tiger census in 2013 put the number of wild tigers in the country at 198, an increase in the population by 63 percent from the last survey in 2009
  • Chitwan National Park: 120 (91 in 2009)
  • Bardiya National Park: 50 (18 in 2009)
  • Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve: 17 (8 in 2009)
  • Banke National Park: 4 (Comeback of tigers)kathmandupost