We sent wildlife filmmaker Emmanuel Rondeau on a mission to capture footage of the endangered tiger in Bhutan. With only around 100 wild tigers in this country, this was no easy task. But, despite torrential downpours, high altitudes and high terrain, he succeeded! And captured some other interesting animals on film too….
My name is Emmanuel Rondeau and I’m a filmmaker and photojournalist specialised in discoveries and wildlife. I see it as my job to inspire people to care about our incredible planet.
Around five years ago I started taking photographs of the world’s most elusive big cats – species which people love but where there are very few images of them in the wild. My adventures have taken me to Costa Rica to capture Pumas, Ocelots and Jaguars on camera; the cold mountains of France to photograph the Eurasian lynx; and the Russian Far East to focus on Amur leopards (the world’s rarest cat).
Mission Tiger: Bhutan
I jumped at the chance to take on WWF’s Mission Tiger: Bhutan earlier this year. If I could capture an image of a tiger using one of Bhutan’s ‘wildlife corridors’, WWF could call for greater protection in these areas.
What is a wildlife corridor I hear you ask? In Bhutan, there are 10 protected areas and connecting ‘corridors’ that together cover 51% of the country. This includes national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, home to many of the country’s amazing wildlife. It’s important these areas are connected by protected corridors so that wildlife can move around.
Unfortunately, wildlife corridors don’t always receive the protection they need – they aren’t monitored or patrolled as much as national parks. But making sure tigers are able to move across whole landscapes is a key part of the charity’s strategy to double the number of wild tigers by 2022. For example, a well-protected corridor could help a tiger from one national park meet and mate with a tigress in another park.
After checking in more than 100 kilograms of photography equipment and two days of travelling, I arrived in Bhutan, one of the world’s most mysterious and fascinating countries. With an incredible team of rangers, we set up 8 DSLR camera traps and 8 video camera traps hidden in corridor 8 in Bhutan which links three large national parks together.
There’s already evidence that tigers use the corridors. One individual was spotted in Manas National Park in the south of Bhutan, and then was seen a year later in Jigme Dorji National Park in the north of the country, for example.
My cameras remained in corridor 8 for approximately 3 months but victory came a bit sooner than expected. After 23 days, an endangered tiger appeared!
What’s more, experts studying the unique pattern of its stripes confirmed that this tiger has never been recorded in Bhutan before. This was an incredible moment for me, as you can probably tell by my reaction to this discovery.
You’ve been framed!
I had thousands of false triggers due to leaves and high winds. I think the first mammal I caught on camera was the tiger, but we also found a…
Himalayan Black Bear
Some of the species caught on camera really were discoveries – it felt like I was walking on a different planet. I hope Bhutan never loses any of the incredible biodiversity which makes up this country in the heart of Asia.
Proud to say #iProtectTigers
Being part of the global goal to double the number of wild tigers with WWF has been an immense honour. The tiger is a huge part of Bhutan’s culture and religion, and I feel privileged to have witnessed this first hand. I hope after reading my blog and hearing more about Bhutan’s tiger story, you too will help protect this amazing species. You can do this by becoming a WWF Tiger Protector.