Nepal set to be first to dou­ble wild tiger pop­u­la­tion

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - ENVIRONMENT - BY MEENA S. JANARDHAN

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.

DIS­AP­PEAR­ING SPECIES

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.

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