Counting the stripesThe tiger survey is a serious issue and the report must be published by September
Nepal celebrated International Tiger Day 2018 on Sunday with much fanfare though the much-awaited Tiger Census report was not released as anticipated. The government had been pressed to publish the report on International Tiger Day. Failure on the government’s part to make public the report eight months after the count began has been viewed with suspicion. The report would have ascertained the total number of adult tigers in the country. Every year, July 29 is celebrated as International Tiger Day to raise awareness about the endangered big cats.
According to the last census held in 2013, Chitwan National Park (CNP) had 120 adult tigers; but the number is suspected to have significantly decreased since then. There is speculation that perhaps this could be one of the reasons why the census report was not published. The government has, however, attributed the delay to the additional time required to analyse the data gathered from the field.
CNP recorded the deaths of 11 tigers in the last three years, including six in the fiscal year 2017-18. In the last five years, 33 tigers have died in the country’s protected areas due to natural causes, according to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC).
The population of tigers has become a cause for concern around the world as safe space for wildlife to thrive is shrinking. In their native habitats in Asia, tigers have also been face poaching, unchecked deforestation and disappearing prey due to increased human encroachment. Owing to these reasons, the tiger’s future has not been so bright for much of the last century. In fact, the majestic creature is on the verge of extinction.
In Nepal, fragmentation and loss of natural habitat and poaching are the major impediments to effective conservation. As the area of wildlife reserves shrinks, tigers are also facing increasing conflict with humans living adjacent to their habitat.
Nepal’s commitment to the Global Tiger Recovery Plan, endorsed during the 2010 St Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation, requires Nepal to double its tiger population to 250 individuals or more by 2022 from its base population of around 125 at that time. According to experts, there has been positive progress in this regard and conservationists hope the growth trend will continue. To conserve the population of the iconic big cats, the government should boost patrolling and monitoring. Forest guards should be properly trained too.
And although the government failed to release the Tiger Census report this time around, let’s hope it will be published on National Conservation Day in September so that speculation about their decreased number will be proved wrong.