Sabita Shrestha and Nirmal Ghimire, My Republica, July 30, 2019
CHITWAN/BARDIYA: Nepal might be inching closer to setting a record by doubling its tiger population, but Chitwan National Park, once famed for tigers, is in a middle of crisis.
With shrinking habitat, declining prey and rise in human-wildlife conflict, the endangered tigers are dying in a record number.
The national park recorded deaths of at least eight tigers-- including four adult male and two adult female--in the last one year. Two deaths have been attributed to poisoning, while two other died of natural cause, said Bedkumar Dhakal, CNP’s chief conservation officer.
The deaths have raised alarm among stakeholders who have demanded immediate plans to save the wildcats.
“Numerous factors including destruction and fragmentation of habitat and scarcity of prey are forcing tigers to come out to the human settlements. It’s time to address these problems,’’ said Thakur Dhakal, mayor of Madi Municipality.
The park has witnessed a marked decline in grassland which now covers just 12 percent of its area.
The crisis, however, is not new. Tiger population in Chitwan National Park, which covers parts of Chitwan, Makwanpur, Parsa and Nawalparasi, has been decreasing in recent years.
There were 93 wild tigers in Chitwan National Park in 2018, a significant decline from 120 tigers recorded in 2013.
In contrast, tiger population has been rising in other sanctuaries including Bardiya National Park and Banke National Park.
The latest survey showed that there were 78 Royal Bengal Tigers in Bardiya National Park, a six-fold increase compared to 14 tigers recorded in 2008. Banke National Park has 21 tigers.
Officials at Bardiya National Park say that the tiger population is likely to cross 100 by the next census. This is likely to help Nepal achieve its target of becoming the first country to double its national tiger population before the global target of 2022.
Globally, there are an estimated 4000 tigers in the wild, out of which around 3300 are Royal Bengal Tiger.
The Royal Bengal Tiger is mainly found in South Asia, Myanmar and some parts of China. India alone has around 3000 Royal Bengal Tigers in the wild.