As the world celebrated world tiger day on Saturday 30th July 2011, Nepal’s perennial efforts to conserve the dwindling population of big cats has brought cheer to the global conservation fraternity. The population of big cats in Nepal is on an upward trajectory, bringing the current total to 155.
In 2010, a census was carried out nationwide revealing that the number of tigers across the country has increased by 34, to a total of 155. Last year, 121 tigers were found. The count, which took three months to conduct throughout the country’s major national parks, was undertaken by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in association with the National Trust for Nature Conservation and the World Wildlife Fund – Nepal.
The majority of the tigers, 125, were found in Chitwan National Park, a popular tourist spot for wildlife safaris. Bardia National Park had 18, Suklaphata Wildlife Reserve eight and Prasa Wildlife Reserve had four tigers this year. Tiger populations living outside of protected areas and conservation areas were not included in the count. Recent studies indicate that there are as few as 3,500 tigers left in the wild, of which only 1,000 are breeding females.
Nepal has 155 tigers and the government has set a goal to increase its tiger population to 250 within 10 years. The Tiger Conference held in Russia last year had pledged to double the world’s tiger population by 2022. During the international conference, all 13 nations had agreed to formulate plans in their individual countries as part of the Global Tiger Recovery Plan.
The tiger conference was jointly organized by the Global Tiger Initiative and Global Tiger Forum. At the meeting, Nepal presented its major case points for changes in tiger habitat, illegal poaching, wildlife trading and skills development of conservationists.
Marking World Tiger Day for the second consecutive time, Nepal’s Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal held a high- level meeting on Friday 29th July 2011 to prepare further plans and strategies to save the big cats. The heads of state from 13 tiger-range countries gathered in mid-July in New Delhi and pledged to make significant efforts in their individual countries to double the number of tigers by the year 2022.
Wildlife poachers pose serious threats to the life of this endangered beast, whose skins and bones are smuggled through Nepal to China to be used for the manufacture of traditional Chinese medicines. The poaching of the cats and their prey, combined with a striking loss of habitat, are the main reasons that led to the decline of their population in the last decade.
The 2010 Tiger Census in Nepal was conducted through analyses of footprints, or pugmarks, and camera trapping. Due to the lack of standard road networks in conservation areas of Nepal, patrolling has not been carried out, and during rainy season, it is almost impossible to patrol. As a result of this, forest crimes have been hard to control. After being denounced as the transit point for smuggling of rare wildlife products at the end of Tiger Year 2010, Nepal has prioritized the establishment of the South Asian Secretariat to put an end to this trade.