Tigers are the most charismatic and well known largest of all the Asian big cats. Tigers have narrow black, brown or grey stripes on their heads, bodies and limbs. Tigers can be differentiated easily since the pattern of stripes is unique to each individual.
Tiger populations are under threat from prey depletion, tiger poaching and habitat degradation and fragmentation. These threats arise from a variety of factors linked to local rural uses from variety of factors linked to local rural uses as well as economic development projects. Essential challenge now lies in setting appropriate priorities in responding to these threats. In Nepal, fragmentation and loss of natural habitat and poaching are the major impediment to effective conservation.
Tigers are facing a serious danger of becoming extinct in the wild. There were once nine subspecies of tigers: Bengal, Siberian, Indochinese, South Chinese, Sumatran, Malayan, Caspian, Javan and Bali. Out of the nine subspecies, the last three have already been extinct and the rest are endangered. Historic tiger range ran from Turkey, Tibetan plateau, Manchuria and the Sea of Okhotsk in South and Southeast Asia.
Tigers were once distributed throughout the lowland Terai and the adjoining foothills of the country. After the collapse of the Rana regime in 1950s and the eradication of malaria during the mid-1950s, Chitwan opened to outsiders. Thousands of people can down from the mid-hills and large swathes of wildlife habitat were cleared for human settlements, agriculture and other development activities. Uncontrolled hunting of wild animals occurred until the mammalian species including tiger and rhino were nearly exterminated from the area. Swamp deer, one of tiger’s major prey species, disappeared from Chitwan by early 1970s. Significant decrease in tiger population was noticed during 1960s and 1970s.
In 1964, the late King Mahendra declared the southern part of Chitwan valley as Mahendra Mriga Kunj. Later in 1973, National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2029 was enacted and Chitwan National Park was declared. Parallel to the establishment of CNP, the Tiger Ecology Project was initiated in the early 1970’s as a joint venture of the government of Nepal, the Smithsonian Institution, and World Wildlife Fund to conduct research on the tiger and its prey species.
Based on recommendation of these studies, the park boundaries were extended in 1977 to present size of 932 square km. Furthermore as an extension to CNP, the Parsa Wildlife Reserve was gazetted in 1976 as an extension of CNP as an approach to maintain the continuity of habitats based on the ecosystem management approach. Beside these, other significant works of the period were Operation Tiger and Tiger Conservation Project. Research and Monitoring Unit has been established to monitor tigers and their prey species in TAL.
In 2010, the governments of the world’s 13 tiger range countries committed to TX2 at the St Petersburg ‘Tiger Summit’ – the global goal to double the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. WWF is a key driver of the TX2 goal, working together with governments, businesses, development partners, local communities, and many others to ensure tiger conservation is given the priority and investment it requires.
The National Tiger Survey 2022 is on the run. This count was commenced on December 05, 2021 through a launch programme in Chitwan National Park. The survey began with the Chitwan – Parsa complex, covering all tiger habitats of Nepal including national parks, buffer zones and national forests within the vicinity.
Guided by Tiger and Prey Base Monitoring Protocol, the Survey is following a methodology that includes Camera Trapping and Habitat Occupancy. Nepal’s tiger bearing habitats have been divided into three complexes – Chitwan-Parsa, Banke-Bardia, and Shuklaphanta-Laljhadi. An estimated 3938 units of – camera traps will be used, across 1,969 grids that traverse these complexes.
The last tiger survey in Nepal was conducted in 2018. That estimated 235 wild tigers in the country, a near doubling of the baseline of 121 tigers in 2009. The findings from this survey will undoubtedly be crucial, not only in understanding and improving conservation efforts for the species, but also in in terms of tracking Nepal’s progress in achieving its commitment to double its tiger populations by 2022, set at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010.
Nepal has achieved exceptional results in tiger conservation despite a multitude of challenging situations. The numbers are testimony to this. We are confident that Nepal will achieve its TX2 targets this coming year and present it in the upcoming global tiger summit”, states Dr. Ghana Shyam Gurung, Country Representative, WWF Nepal.
The National Tiger Survey 2022 is led by the Government of Nepal with an estimated budget of NPR 37 million. WWF Nepal, ZSL Nepal and the National Trust for Nature Conservations have provided both technical and financial support,. WWF-UK, WWF Canada, WWF Finland, and Tigers Alive Initiative provided financial support for the survey.
Nepal’s last National Tiger Survey was conducted between November 2017 and April 2018 in the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), a transboundary landscape shared with north-astern India. The survey covered five protected areas together with corridors and adjoining forests, with an estimated 18 tigers in Parsa National Park, 93 in Chitwan National Park, 87 in Bardia National Park, 21 in Banke National Park and 16 in Shuklaphanta National Park.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) will release the result of latest Tiger Count on World Tiger Day on 29 July, 2022.