I manage WWF-UK’s support to programmes in three priority tiger landscapes, and I am currently in Nepal to visit our colleagues in the Terai Arc Landscape, and to see the programme in action.
I will be travelling to a few National Parks, and meeting a range of people involved in tiger conservation. One person I met today was Sabita Malla, who is WWF Nepal’s senior research officer. She is involved with research on tigers, rhinos and other species, and heads out into the field regularly. She studies tiger and rhino populations and movements.
Rhinos can be identified by their horns, ears and other marks, whilst tigers are identified by their stripe patterns.
So, when caught on camera, the images can be studied to tell us more about these species, their movements and their lives. Very clever! This is how we find out the latest news of Kamrita, the name that we have given to the tiger who many of our supporters in the UK kindly adopt.
Earlier this year Sabita worked with the Government of Nepal to conduct their tiger survey. She helped to design the methodology, train 268 people who were involved in the survey effort and helped to analyse the data. She is so passionate about her work and so happy! Before the survey, Sabita felt optimistic that it would find positive results, as there has been a lot of investment in the field. She felt that there would be an increase in tiger numbers, but not to this extent. She told me that the final findings were “overwhelming for everybody” – with a huge smile on her face.
The survey found that since 2009, there has been over a 60% increase in the number of tigers in Nepal’s Terai Arc.
In Nepal, we are working with the Government to achieve the target of doubling the number of tigers in the wild by 2022. This survey shows that we are well on the way. However, we cannot be complacent, as the threats to tigers are always there – from poaching and illegal trade to habitat degradation and now a proposed highway to cut through the Terai Arc Landscape. This needs to be designed so that it does not impact negatively on the fantastic wildlife of this area – in particular rhinos and tigers which need large and connected areas to live.
Sabita was telling me that she will be conducting a study early next year to understand the rhino movements in the area, so that this can be taken into account in these plans and infrastructure can be planned in a smart way. At the end of our all-too-brief conversation, we were working out whether I would see Sabita again in the field over the next week and we identified one day when our paths might overlap. However, when she was asked where she will be staying she said she’ll be “camping out in the jungle”. What commitment and what a fantastic job! I hope to see Sabita at her special camping place, but it might not be possible to track her!
Do you have an opinion about tiger and rhino numbers in Nepal? What are your views? Leave us a comment