It’s estimated that 235 Bengal tigers live in Nepal. And even though the news is hugely positive for the species, it has led to an increasing conservation challenge – to ensure that the people living within close proximity to the booming tiger population are able to coexist safely.
Together with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, National Trust for Nature Conservation and local communities, we’re working in Nepal to tackle human-wildlife conflict which experts say is “one of the greatest conservation challenges of our time.” The team of conservation scientists from the zoo, 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. Our 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.