Tigers in Manas

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About 35 tigers roam the jungles of the Royal Manas National Park showed the outcome of Bhutan’s tiger conservation efforts.

This estimate was revealed yesterday as Bhutan joined the 13 tiger range countries to observe the International Tiger Day and raise awareness on the plight of the big cats in the wild.

18 individual tigers were captured by the 176 camera traps that were set up in 88 camera stations for 5,280 nights. It covered the 3 regions of Gomphu, Manas and Umling under the Manas Park.

The survey involved 60 forest personnel from the Royal Manas National Park, Wildlife Conservation Division and the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute of Conservation and Environment.

With an area of 1,057 sq. km., the park runs through Zhemgang, Sarpang and Pema Gyatshel including 34km square of Tingtibe area.

Conservation officials said all areas under forest cover in Bhutan are a potential tiger habitat, and that Bhutan has recorded the Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) freely roaming the rugged mountain as high as 4200m.

Estimating the tiger population at the park, they said, sets the bench marks for future tiger conservation besides revealing the park’s conservation outcomes.

Wildlife Conservation Division’s chief forest officer Sonam Wangchuk said similar surveys would now be done in other parks to get a nationwide figure by 2013.

“The day is observed to create awareness about this gigantic animal, especially among the younger generation,” Sonam Wangchuk said.

An environmentalist since the ‘60s, Dasho Paljor J Dorji, who also gave a talk yesterday, said Bhutan has been looking after tigers since the ‘80s but was not publicly publicised.

“There wasn’t much money for tiger conservation but, of late, there’s more attention given to tigers,” he said. “But we shouldn’t allow foreigners to come and conduct studies.”

Although revered in Bhutan ever since Guru Rinpoche brought Buddhism by riding on the back of a flying tigress, the importance to tiger conservation began with legal support in 1995, when the Forests and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan labelled the tiger as “totally protected.”

Since 2003, records with the conservation division showed that 543 livestocks were reported to be preyed on by the tiger to date.

For this, the division has to pay a compensation of Nu 2,352,250. So far Nu 2,293,000 has been paid off.

The day, which will be an annual event, was also marked with the launch of car stickers, a book on the White Belliied Heron by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature, prize distribution to winners of the painting competition on tiger conservation and talks by youth and student representatives.

“Tiger is the most important species in the ecosystem and, if they’re conserved, the rest in the ecosystem are taken care of,” an official from the conservation division said.

Original story by Kuensel

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