This International Tiger Day, we’re reflecting on the first phase of our Living with Tigers project in the Terai region of Nepal.
Since 2016, we have worked with the Nepalese government, Green Governance Nepal, the National Trust for Nature Conservation, communities and the University of Oxford to promote human-wildlife coexistence around Bardia and Chitwan National Parks – home to Nepal’s two largest tiger populations.
Sadly, it is estimated that there are only around 4,000 mature tigers remaining worldwide, found across just 5% of their historic range. A decade ago, the launch of the Global Tiger Recovery Program brought together all 13 range countries on a mission to double tiger populations by 2022.
Nepal, which is home to over 200 Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris), is one of the countries on track to achieve this goal, thanks to its commitment to collaborative conservation activities such as the Living with Tigers project. This project aims to reduce human-felid conflict and to support peaceful human-wildlife coexistence, primarily by working to alleviate poverty. Poverty significantly increases the risk of encountering wildlife, such as tigers and leopards, by creating greater need to collect natural resources or graze livestock in the forest. Alleviating poverty therefore helps to reduce human-wildlife conflict by minimising the time that people spend in the forest.
When we began the project in 2016, we carried out in-depth research into the major local threats to tigers and the needs, cultures and underlying socio-economic pressures which influence community members’ behaviour. We then worked with the communities to identify appropriate conflict mitigation methods, and tested whether these were effective by conducting ecological and social research before, during and after intervention.
Amy Fitzmaurice, Project Manager of Living with Tigers
“So far, we have worked with eight communities using a holistic approach that has included constructing predator-proof pens; providing training on safe working practices; building capacity for electric fence construction and maintenance to protect against crop-raiding; and delivering horticultural and handicraft workshops to support alternative livelihoods. Our research shows that these activities have contributed towards reduced livestock predations, improved food security and increased income potential for local people.”
WHAT OUR SECRET CAMERA SAW…
This International Tiger Day, we not only want to celebrate this charismatic and beautiful creature, but also to highlight the commitment of conservationists who are playing a vital role in preventing extinction of the Bengal tiger in Nepal. Below, Amy introduces us to some of the dedicated people who have been crucial to the success of the Living with Tigers project…
The LWT field coordinator for Chitwan and Bardia, he is an entrepreneur, coordinating tasks whilst running a small hotel with his family.
He has several decades of wildlife tracking experience and is an expert on birds!
A wildlife tracker from Chitwan, his knowledge of all biodiversity is amazing! He is dedicated to learning about the conservation of Nepali wildlife.
A member of the voluntary community anti-poaching unit, who was part of the LWT Chitwan research team in 2017 and 2018.
One of the field staff from Bardia. All of our field staff, are from one of the communities the project works with.
A dedicated conservationist working with the National Trust for Nature Conservation, one of the leading wildlife conservation organisation in Nepal.
Now that our methods have proven successful, it is hoped that in future, we can expand the project to allow even more communities to benefit. Over the past year, we have already ensured that all of our ‘control’ communities from the first phase, which did not receive the tested interventions initially so that they could act as an important point of comparison, have now been provided with the valuable training and technical support on offer.
Amy tells us, “When we asked the communities what they wanted next, they said that the project worked really well, but there is a need to complete more interventions in Nepal to sustain the positive changes that have occurred. In light of the current COVID-19 situation, we believe more strongly than ever that conserving the world’s ecosystems does not just protect biodiversity, but protects people too.”