Nepal Tiger Census Shows Wild Tiger Population Has Doubled
Nepal’s wild tigers are clawing their way back from near extinction, doubling their numbers in the last decade, according the country’s latest census. In 2009, 121 adult cats roamed Nepal’s lowlands. Today, that number sits at 235.
“It was very exciting when we checked the (memory) cards and found photos of tigers,” Chauhan Kumar Chaudhary said, a trained local who has helped track and record tiger movements for the past nine years.
The census began in November 2017 and by the following March, more than 4,000 images of tigers had been captured on more than 3,200 special camera traps that took photos when sensors were triggered. Field workers would also have the dangerous task of patrolling five national parks cataloguing the existence of the big cats.
A century ago, more than 100,000 tigers roamed the planet, but wars have destroyed habitats and poachers target wildlife whose parts are sought on the illegal trade market for traditional Chinese medicine, for example. The global tiger population fell to a record low 3,200 in 2010.
That’s when the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) set the goal of doubling the wild tiger population by the year 2022 with a 13 key countries, including Nepal. In fact, it is on track to be the first country to achieve this goal.
Conservationists say that the key to the success in Nepal has been to educate tiger-fearing villagers – who could earn thousands of dollars for poaching a big cat – to become the animal’s protectors.
“Tigers are our wealth. We have to protect them,” said Sanju Pariyar, 22, who was just a teen when she joined an anti-poaching group made up of many Nepali women who patrol the Baria National Park looking for tiger traps and poachers.
“People understand that if our tiger and rhino numbers grow, tourists will come and bring opportunities. It is good for us.”
While it is good news, national park warden Ashok Bhandari says that the rising tiger number also attracts more poachers due to the lucrative black market they supply with endangered animal parts.
“It is now more important than ever to stay vigilant.”