Year of the Tiger

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As we welcome the year of the Tiger, the new year is not about roaring celebration. It instead calls for more conservation actions.

Among the 13 tiger range countries in the world, Bhutan, which is best known for its conservation policies, is launching postal stamps of tigers as a sign of commitment to the global effort in saving tigers from becoming extinct.

Denominations of Nu. 30 and Nu. 50 stamps will be launched on February 13, at the clock tower square, along with the unveiling of a tiger mount. The mount, said Nature Conservation Division (NCD) officials, is a reproduction of an old tiger that was rescued from Haa in 2005.

The postal stamps with “Save the Tigers” slogan is a good way of advertising, said the Chief Forest Officer of NCD, Dr Sonam Wangyel Wang. “People use on mail, which go through various offices, countries and reach every part of the country and the globe” he said.

“Tigers manage the ecosystem and keep it in perfect balance, which is why it is very important to save the tigers”, said Dr Sonam Wangyel Wang. “It’s at the top of the food chain and controls the composition of the forest ecosystem,” he said. He added that tigers are a pride for Asia and an indicator of stress on the environment. “Saving tigers is saving the pride of Asia,” he said.

The year of the Tiger is taken as an opportunity around the globe to create awareness on saving the big cats. “Tigers may become extinct if we wait for the next tiger year,” said the Coordinator of Carnivore Conservation program, Lhendup Tharchen.

Although Bhutan’s wildlife habitat is better as compared to other countries, NCD officials said that Bhutan’s tiger conservation efforts took off quite late. “We’re in the last leg of the conservation process and much is left to be done,” said an NCD official. He said that other countries had pockets of tiger habitats, making it difficult for tigers to move from one habitat to another. “But Bhutan’s habitat are interconnected, so tigers can move,” he said.

Based on old data, Bhutan is home to about 120 Royal Bengal tigers. Half of the only 3,200 tigers in the world are in India and the rest are spread across Russia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Indonesia and China.

The tiger conservation program in Bhutan began in 1995, followed by a tiger conservation strategy in 1998. Seven years after the strategy was framed, NCD developed the tiger action plan for 2006 to 2015.

Poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation have pushed tigers to the verge of extinction, say experts. In Bhutan, besides developmental activities, officials said that there is also an increase in human-tiger conflict, because domestic livestock drive wild prey to the peripheries, increasing their own chances of becoming prey.

Between 2002 and 2008, NCD has paid Nu. 4,689,700 to 1,672 farmers as compensation for the 1,854 livestock killed by tigers. Tiger prey includes yak, calf, sheep, horses, bull and mules. The compensation ranges between Nu. 350 for a sheep up to Nu. 7,500 for a yak or a jersey cow.

Any act of taking, injuring, destroying, killing, shooting, capturing and trading or using of tiger parts or products will lead to imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines between Nu. 50,000 to Nu. 250,000 or both as per the nature conservation act, 1995.

“We’re currently focusing on coming up with a baseline data to know the precise figure,” said Lhendup Tharchen. “We don’t know whether it’s increasing or decreasing and knowing that is our first priority.”

Original story by Kuensel

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