Tiger numbers on the rise in Nepal
A new census has revealed that tiger numbers are on the rise in Nepal.
- New Nepalese government census reveals a boost for tiger numbers
- Population increases by almost double as a result of a decade of successful conservation efforts
- Tackling human-tiger conflict is now crucial to ensure local communities and big cats co-exist safely, say Chester Zoo conservationist experts
- Chester Zoo’s Living with Tigers project is protecting tigers and people from potential conflict
The survey carried out by the Nepalese government has revealed that the country has nearly doubled its tiger population in the past ten years as a result of successful conservation efforts. It is estimated that 235 Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) live in the country.
But while the news is hugely positive for the species, it has led to an increasing conservation challenge – ensuring that communities living in close proximity to the booming tiger population co-exist together safely.
A team of conservation scientists from Chester Zoo is working in Nepal with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, National Trust for Nature Conservation and local communities to tackle human-wildlife conflict which experts say is “one of the greatest conservation challenges of our time.”
The zoo team, alongside The University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and the conservation NGO Green Governance Nepal, has, for the last three years been successfully reducing conflict between Bengal tigers and local communities. The Living with Tigers project, funded by Darwin Initiative, has lessened the risks of tiger attacks on people and livestock and human retaliatory actions towards the species.
So far mitigation methods, such as predator-proof livestock pens and biogas plants, and changing livestock management practices and the creation of conflict hotspot maps using camera trap data, have been deployed to combat human-tiger conflict for over 1,200 households in and around two national parks – Bardia and Chitwan.
Valerie de Liedekerke, Conservation Science Projects Manager at Chester Zoo, said:
“Developing regions of the world such as South and Southeast Asia are particularly vulnerable to human-wildlife conflict posing a serious environmental challenge for humans. Increase in the spillover of tigers from national parks to buffer zones and recovering forests in Nepal create a challenge in minimising the conflicts that might escalate in the face of a growing tiger population.”
The majority of villagers living close to the parks are at a greater risk of coming into conflict with tigers moving across park boundaries into the community buffer zone areas. When asked what would make a positive impact on their day-to-day lives, the communities involved in the project all expressed a strong need for horticulture workshops and improved livestock husbandry.
Armed with the feedback, experts from the zoo travelled to Nepal to run a series of sessions on horticulture training, aimed at providing the local communities with alternative livelihoods to enable them to become less reliant on the forest and its resources and decrease the need for people to venture into forested areas.
Government vets were also hired to run improved livestock husbandry workshops administering vaccinations, medical treatments, and general animal care. In addition, safe working and livestock husbandry practices training were given providing information on the safety benefits of stall feeding versus free range grazing.
The Living with Tigers project provided 152 predator-proof pens and 46 biogas plants to mitigate against tiger attacks on the livestock and people. In all, 603 individuals participated in different alternative livelihoods and income generation capacity development workshops, and 575 individuals attended livestock husbandry workshops.
Kiran Timalsina, Chairperson of Green Governance Nepal, added:
“It is wonderful news for the entire conservation community around the globe and it demonstrates that ambitious conservation goals can be achieved when governments, conservation partners and local communities work together.
“It also highlights the need for more concentrated efforts particularly focusing on human-tiger conflict mitigation to bring about conditions where tigers and the local communities with whom they share the landscape could coexist.”
- Chester Zoo (www.chesterzoo.org) is a registered conservation and education charity that supports projects around the world and closer to home in Cheshire. Welcoming 1.9 million visitors a year, it is the most visited zoo in the UK; home to over 21,000 animals and more than 500 different species, many of which are endangered in the wild
- Chester Zoo is the UK’s most visited tourist attraction outside London, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA)
- Through its wildlife conservation campaign, Act for Wildlife, the zoo is helping to save highly threatened species around the world from extinction. Find out more at www.actforwildlife.org.uk
- @chesterzoo @scienceatcz @actforwildlife
- The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) is a conservation, education and wildlife charity, representing over 100 of the best zoos and aquariums in Britain and Ireland
- BIAZA collections have global impact, participating in over 800 conservation projects, 1,400 research projects and contributing more than £24 million a year to field conservation. With over 30 million visitors being welcomed annually, BIAZA zoos and aquariums are recognised as offering a fun and safe way to learn about animals and together they deliver formal education sessions to more than 1 million students
- BIAZA and its members are a powerful force in the care and conservation of the natural world. Collectively they endeavour to inspire people to protect our planet’s rich biodiversity, deliver high quality environmental education, training and research whilst achieving the highest standards of animal care and welfare