Chandan Mandal, The Himalayan Times, 1 Dec 2017
A nationwide tiger census kicked off from the Parsa National Park (PNP) on Thursday.
As per the its commitment to the Global Tiger Recovery Plan, which was endorsed during 2010 St Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation, Nepal is working to double its tiger population up to 250 or more by 2022.
“We are hoping to reach the goal earlier than other countries because of our improved tiger conservation. It won’t be a big surprise if Nepal emerges as the only country succeeding in doubling its tiger population by the assigned year,” said Man Bahadur Khadka, director general of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC).
According to 2013 census, the number tigers in the country stood at 198, of which 120 were counted in Chitwan National Park (CNP), 50 in Bardiya National Park (BNP), 17 in Shuklaphanta National Park (SNP), seven in PNP, and four in Banke National Park.
Since the last census, separate tiger survey conducted inside the protected areas over the years has indicated that the country’s tiger population has been growing rapidly.
The country has also endorsed the “Tiger Conservation Action Plan for Nepal (2016-2020)” for effective conservation of wildcats.
The census, launched by Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) Secretary Yubak Dhoj GC amid a ceremony held at the PNP, will continue in all the protected areas and forest areas known to have tigers.
Last October, Nepal and India for the first time had decided to conduct joint tiger census from the second week of November.
However, the plan was delayed by two weeks due to the elections in the country.
“This is the first time we have been conducting tiger population survey simultaneously. Such initiation will minimise the duplication of tigers, which roam around the protected areas of the both countries,” said Khadka.
The census will be conducted using camera trapping method.
According to Khadka, tiger habitat has been divided into three complexes: Chitwan-Parsa Complex; Banke-Bardiya Complex; and Shukla-Laljhadi-Jogbudha Complex.
These areas with tiger population have been further divided into total 1887 grids - each with an area of 4 sq km. For monitoring tiger population, 1,200 high-tech automatic cameras will be installed in these grids of protected areas and forests.
At least one pair of cameras will be set up in each grid to track tiger movement. The camera trapping method, a popular method for studying wild animals, employs automatically operated cameras with infrared sensor that captures any movement that passes in front of them.
“This is very scientific and reliable method to know about the tiger population in our protected areas,” said Khadka.
The census is expected to go on for 66 days. Besides human resources, elephants will also be mobilised on census duty.
Human resources from the DNPWC, National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), protected areas officials, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal, Nepal Army, District Forest Offices, and representatives from the buffer zone committees, among others, are being mobilised for the count. The total expenditure of running the census is estimated at Rs 32 million.
The WWF Nepal and Zoological Society of London Nepal have provided financial and technical assistance while NTNC has supported technical and managerial aspects.
Saving big cats
The last tiger census in 2013 put the number of wild tigers in the country at 198 (163-235), an increase in population by 63 percent from the last survey in 2009
Chitwan National Park: 120 (98-139); 91 in 2009
Bardiya National Park: 50 (45-55); 18 in 2009
Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve: 17 (13-21); 8 in 2009
Parsa Wildlife Reserve*: 7 (4-13)
Banke National Park: 4 (3-7); comeback of tigers
* Now Parsa National Park