Nepal set to be first to double wild tiger population
On the occasion of National Conservation Day on Sept. 23, 2018, Nepal announced that there are now an estimated 235 wild tigers in the country, nearly doubling the baseline of around 121 tigers in 2009. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), if these trends continue, Nepal could become the irst country to double its national tiger population since the ambitious TX2 goal – to double the world’s wild tiger population by 2022 – was set at the St Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010.
Nepal conducted its national tiger survey between November 2017 and April 2018 in the transboundary TeraiArc Landscape (TAL), a vast area of diverse ecosystems shared with India. Camera traps and occupancy surveys were used to estimate tiger occupancy and abundance, while line transect surveys were used to derive prey density. The last tiger survey in 2013 had estimated the tiger population at 198.
The success in Nepal has been largely attributed to the country’s political commitment and the adoption of innovative tools and approaches towards tiger conservation. Nepal was the irst country to achieve global standards in managing tiger conservation areas, an accreditation scheme governed by the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS). With four more years to go, the TX2 goal of doubling tiger numbers globally can only be achieved if all the tiger range countries step
up and commit to a similar level of excellence.
In May this year, Nepal celebrated a new benchmark with the achievement of 365 days of zero poaching of rhinos on ive occasions between 2011 and 2018. This is another excellent example of real conservation change that can be achieved when a country unites and coordinates the efforts of the government, enforcement agencies, conservation partners and local communities.
Nepal’s national tiger survey was conducted between November 2017 and April 2018 in the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), a transboundary landscape shared with northeastern India. The survey covered five protected areas together with corridors and adjoining forests, with an estimated 18 tigers in Parsa National Park, 93 in Chitwan National Park, 87 in Bardia National Park, 21 in Banke National Park and 16 in Shuklaphanta National Park.
The latest national tiger survey covered 16,261 km2 for occupancy surveys, 12,356km2 for camera trapping and 2,484km of line transects. Camera trapping effort of 27,829 effective camera trap days collected a total of 4,387 tiger images.
New studies indicate that there may be as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild. Tigers occupy less than 7% of their original range, which has decreased by 40% over the past 10 years.
Continuing deforestation and rampant poaching could push some
tiger populations to the same fate as its now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Asia. Tigers are poached for their body parts, which are used in traditional Asian medicine, while skins are also highly prized.
Additionally, sea level rise, due to climate change, threatens the mangrove habitat of a key tiger population in the Bangladeshi and Indian Sundarbans.
AsWWFpointsout,tigersareone of the world’s most iconic species. Being part of our planet’s natural heritage, they have great cultural and historical signiicance. Yet they are more than just a magniicent animal – they are also crucial for the ecosystems in which they live. As top predators of the food chain, tigers keep populations of prey species in check, which in turn maintains the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. Balanced ecosystems are not only important for wildlife, but for people too – both locally, nationally and globally. People rely on forests, whether it is directly for their livelihoods or indirectly for food and products used in our daily lives. As the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent, natural forests are becoming increasingly important; providing fresh water, clean air and regulating the climate to limit extreme weather, such as droughts and storms.
Tigers not only protect the forest by maintaining ecological integrity, but also by bringing the highest levels of protection and investment to an area. Tigers are
an “umbrella species” – meaning their conservation also conserves many other species in the same area. They are long-ranging and require vast amounts of habitat to survive; an adult male’s home range varies from 150 km2 – 1000 km2. Large areas of intact forest therefore must be preserved for tiger conservation. Due to high demand from the illegal wildlife trade, tigers also bring robust enforcement against poaching and habitat encroachment, as well as systematic biological monitoring.
By protecting tigers, we are protecting forests – something which ultimately beneits us all. Disappearing wildlife Wildlife is disappearing on every continent, in every ocean, on land and underwater. And its fate is in the hands of just one species: Homo sapiens. Human actions threaten wildlife in two main ways: by destroying and damaging the places where species live, and by using them in ways that are unsustainable.
Vast areas of natural habitat continue to be lost to agriculture, urban sprawl, mining and infrastructure, or are suffering from the effects of pollution, introduced species that often out-compete native wildlife, and, increasingly, climate change.
Meanwhile, many species are declining because of unsustainable levels of hunting, fishing and harvesting. Others are being driven toward extinction to support the international wildlife trade, or killed when they come into direct conlict with humans and livestock.