While the world celebrated “International Tiger Day” on July 29, challenges for sustainable conservation of the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger have only increased. Due to growing conflict between humans and tigers, lack of food and habitat, and the threat of poaching, conservation of tigers in Nepal has become more challenging.
Tigers—considered an indicator of the well-being of the ecosystem—are growing in numbers in Nepal. At the Global Tiger Summit 2010 held in St. Petersburg, Russia, Nepal had pledged to double the number of tigers in the world by 2022, as the species was on the verge of extinction. Nepal has also shown its own interest in tiger conservation. By 2018, there were 235 Bengal tigers in Nepal including 93 in Chitwan, 87 in Bardiya, 21 in Banke, 18 in Parsa, and 16 in Shuklaphanta National Park.
Annath Baral, chief conservation officer of Bardiya National Park, says the increase in the number of tigers has added challenges to their conservation. The threat of poaching, growing conflicts with humans, as well as cramped habitats and food shortages, have been major challenges for tiger conservation in recent times. With the increase in the number of tigers, there is an increase in their movement to buffer zones and forest areas. “Development of intermediate zones and encroachment of forest areas has become an issue for the tigers and their habitats.” Baral says. Furthermore, the growth rate of their prey has steadily decreased as the grasslands have substantially depleted in recent years.
“Because the tiger’s habitats are being encroached upon, tigers have started living not only in the parks but also in the community and government forests in buffer zones,” explains Baral. In such cases, the park needs to manage food supply and safe habitat for them. Making grasslands, ponds and other habitats in the park alone may not be sufficient. “Therefore, it is necessary to properly manage food and habitat for wildlife even in community and government forest areas,” he adds.
With the increase in the number of tigers, lack of food has created a situation of conflict between humans and wildlife. Baral says the park has been working every year for the conservation of tigers, grasslands, ponds, habitats and other food supplies. According to Baral, there has even been interaction at the community level, including awareness programs, to help mitigate the conflict with tigers.
Nine people have been killed and two others injured in separate incidents on the Banke-Bardiya Complex, a natural habitat of tigers, over a period of two years. As the number of tigers has increased, so has the loss of property.
According to Rabin Kadaria, a conservation officer of the National Nature Fund Bardiya Conservation Program, seven tigers died in the complex in the same period. Since 2018, one tiger has been killed in Bardiya and two in Banke by poachers. “One tiger was unfortunately killed in an electric trap in Patabhar of Bardiya. While two tigers died in a road accident on the highway. A man-eating tiger has died after being taken under control by park authorities,” he informs.
“If we don’t pay attention to sustainable conservation of tigers, there is no point in immediate conservation," Kadaria adds. “Conflicts between human and tigers, food and habitat, as well as the threat of poaching are some of the hurdles we face.”