- Prem Bastola/ Rajendra Bhatta
Kathmandu: In a press conference held at the Baluwatar office in Kathmandu on Friday, the WWF Nepal presented its vision for future tiger conservation and discussed potential challenges in tiger management. The conference was organized as part of the “WWF Tiger Alive Initiative (Strategy 2023-34)” program.
Ghanashyam Gurung, the National Representative of WWF Nepal, outlined the key elements of the program, which focuses on the coexistence of tigers and humans in their shared habitat, mitigating conflicts, and building environmental harmony. The following are the main points discussed during the conference:
- Conservation and Coexistence: The program emphasizes the creation of a sustainable coexistence between tigers and human communities. Efforts will be made to develop policies and strategies that safeguard both tiger populations and the well-being of local residents.
- Conflict Mitigation: The WWF’s strategy includes measures to minimize conflicts between tigers and humans. This involves implementing methods to prevent human-tiger encounters and finding ways for people to cohabit safely with tigers.
- Environmental Harmony: The program recognizes the importance of maintaining a balanced and harmonious environment. It aims to promote practices that sustainably manage natural resources and protect the tiger’s habitat.
- Habitat Management: WWF Nepal plans to focus on preserving and managing the habitats of tigers. This will involve efforts to protect and restore the areas where tigers reside.
- Anti-Poaching Measures: The strategy emphasizes the need for rigorous anti-poaching measures to control illegal wildlife trade and protect tigers from being targeted by poachers.
- Active Community Engagement: The WWF intends to actively involve local communities in tiger conservation efforts. This includes raising awareness, fostering community participation, and ensuring that conservation efforts are community-driven.
Mr. Gurung highlighted the significance of Nepal’s role in implementing these programs and making them nationally inclusive. The “WWF Tiger Alive Initiative” aims to be a comprehensive and nationwide endeavor, focusing on active and holistic tiger management and creating a positive impact on tiger populations and their coexistence with humans in the country.
“Himalayan countries (Nepal, India, and Bhutan) have seen an increase in tiger population compared to other countries. Nepal has shown a significant growth in tiger numbers, with the population increasing by 355 in just 12 years, providing an example of successful tiger conservation efforts,” stated Gurung.
While Nepal has achieved success in increasing the tiger population, it also faces challenges, making the current decade crucial for tiger conservation in the country. Gurung emphasized the need for more detailed and sensitive planning in managing tiger populations, to prevent any decline in their numbers. “Tiger population is highly vulnerable, and even minor disturbances can lead to a decrease in their numbers. There are examples of tiger populations declining in Southeast Asia. Hence, over the past 12 years, the government of Nepal and concerned authorities, including WWF Nepal, have shown a certain level of success, but further careful planning is necessary to sustain and increase the tiger population,” he added.
Ghanashyam Gurung highlighted the importance of preserving the current tiger population and the significance of implementing meticulous conservation programs to ensure the growth of the tiger population in Nepal and the Himalayan region.
Shivaraj Bhatta, Tiger expert and the Director of WWF Nepal’s programs, emphasizes the necessity of ensuring nature-friendly development for the long-term conservation of tigers. He states, “True development lies in causing minimal harm to natural resources; it is an essential complement to sustainable development, whether for tigers or for the advancement of human civilization. It is imperative to implement projects that supplement environmental conservation and economic prosperity.”
Bhatta also highlights the need to ensure that the current generation’s development fulfills the requirements of future generations. “The tiger’s survival must also be ensured by the younger generations. We must be able to witness tigers even in the coming generations,” he adds.
In recent times, some tigers have moved beyond the boundaries of national parks, making it essential to provide information about the tiger’s nature, behavior, and significance to the communities in those areas. Bhatta informs that 16 tigers that posed threats to human communities have been rescued and relocated to various rescue centers, contributing to their conservation efforts. Moreover, some of these tigers have been distributed to seven provinces in future to attract tourism, while maintaining their control.
Bhatta, stresses the importance of minimizing adverse effects on human communities, wildlife, flora, nature, and the physical environment in the corridors where tigers regularly roam. He addresses the negative impacts of road kills, the expansion of high-tension power lines, and the rapid expansion of cities and human settlements that can lead to environmental degradation.
“Water sources are drying up in areas where tigers are found, and grasslands are depleting due to the damming of rivers, even from the Himalayas to the Terai. Even though we ban plastic in national parks, plastic pollution from outside directly affects the river, which has a negative impact on the tiger’s habitat,” he explains. To ensure a healthy environment and utilize natural resources appropriately and sustainably, he urges all stakeholders to take these issues seriously.
Regarding tiger-human conflict in local communities, Bhatta emphasizes the need to engage in community-based programs that raise awareness. “The conflict arises as the local communities depend on the forest for shelter and face poverty-related challenges. Therefore, proper management of available resources is essential. Tigers do not attack tourists; the conflict arises when locals don’t change their behavior. Establishing alternative income-generating programs, like local homestays instead of resort establishments by external individuals, can have a more positive impact,” he suggests.
He also points out that once a stable income source is established, it leads to reduced human intrusion into the forest, which, in turn, decreases the conflict between tigers and humans. He emphasizes that tigers, too, benefit from such measures.
In the last 12 years, the global goal was to double the tiger population, aiming to reach 6,200 tigers worldwide. However, according to the data from the year 2022, there are only around 4,500 tigers in 13 countries worldwide. Nepal, despite making progress in increasing the tiger population, has not been able to meet the commitment made by other countries (except India and Bhutan) to double their tiger numbers. WWF Nepal has set its target to achieve this goal this time also.
“Nepal should engage in cooperation with India and China for effective border management, revise the translocation policy, establish a fund to compensate for damages caused by tiger-human conflicts, implement measures to prevent zoonotic diseases, promote both international and local tourism in tiger conservation, involve government representatives, experts, non-governmental organizations, and donors in decision-making at the grassroots level, engage international and local wildlife experts in tiger research, and conduct comprehensive scientific research on tigers and their prey species. These steps are crucial for achieving successful tiger conservation and management”, he said.
In 2010, the World Tiger Summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia, declared that the 29th of July would be observed as International Tiger Day every year. Following this declaration, Nepal also started celebrating this day. Since 2067 B.S. (2010 AD).
(Banner Photo: Dristanta Bidari)