Buddhist Bhutan marks International Tiger Day by reporting surge in wild tiger population

- through Henry Oudin

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Renowned for prioritizing gross national happiness over the profit-driven acquisition of rampant capitalism, the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, nestled high in the thin air of the eastern Himalayas, is also making strides in the field of wildlife conservation. The fourth report of Bhutan's National Tiger Survey, recently released by the Bhutan Tiger Center in cooperation with the Bhutanese government to coincide with International Tiger Day, reveals a promising 27% increase in the tiger population wildlife in the country since the previous report in 2015, bringing the latest official count in Bhutan to around 131 adult tigers.

International Tiger Day, or World Tiger Day, is celebrated annually on July 29 to raise awareness for tiger conservation and the protection of natural tiger habitats. The day was launched in 2010, when all 13 tiger range countries came together to pledge to boost populations of the endangered species.

“The national survey results confirmed that Bhutan now has 131 tigers in the wild, with an overall density of 0,23 tigers per 100 square kilometers. This is an increase of more than 27% from its baseline population of 103 individuals in 2015,” said the Department of Forestry and Park Services, which falls under the Ministry of Energy and Resources. resources of Bhutan, in a press release. “The increase in the tiger population indicates the success of Bhutan's conservation efforts – its commitment to the global tiger recovery program to maintain a viable tiger population. In addition, the target of a 20% increase in tigers under the former Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's 12th Five-Year Plan and Bhutan for Life's conservation milestones has also been achieved. (Bhutan Foundation)

A total of 13 tiger range countries remain, nations that harbor natural tiger habitats: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. . According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)*, however, studies have shown that despite recent successes in improving tiger numbers, the decline of protected areas remains a major risk, particularly due to the loss of habitat and poaching of tigers for bushmeat. , trophies, traditional medicines and other illegal activities.

Push pins represent tiger camera trap locations for the 2021-2022 survey. Image courtesy of Bhutan Foundation

“Over 50% of Bhutan's total landscape is declared a protected area. This, combined with a constitutional mandate to maintain at least 60% forest cover in perpetuity, offers one of the best hopes of maintaining a viable tiger population in the wild,” said the Bhutan Foundation, which works closely with the Bhutan Tiger Center. “Bhutan is a unique habitat for tigers, as the species' known trekking routes stretch across the country, from subtropical lowland jungles to frozen subalpine forests. No wonder then that the highest recorded elevation for tigers in the world is in Bhutan at 4 meters above sea level in the Wangchuck Centenary Park. Given this incredible altitude, Bhutan is also the only place in the world where snow leopards and tigers can be found in the same landscape. (Bhutan Foundation)

Bhutan's survey found that tigers were sighted in eight protected areas and nine forest divisions during the year-long survey. Three hundred foresters from 10 protected areas and 14 territorial divisions were involved in the undertaking. A total of 184 camera stations covering 26 square kilometers also showed four out of five female tigers with cubs captured in camera traps over 075 meters above sea level.

A survey of 68 trap nights yielded 854 still images and 6 videos of tigers captured by these camera stations, of which 611 images and 59 videos served as the basis for the capture record. Other images were rejected due to poor quality. Individual tigers from two camera traps could not be identified and therefore only 4 camera stations were used for analysis of tiger numbers. Baby tigers were not included in the analysis.

"The situation in Royal Manas National Park is particularly remarkable, where tiger populations have not only increased, but doubled," the Bhutan Foundation said in an announcement seen by BDG. “This growth, however, is not without its complexities. Growing numbers of tigers have inevitably intensified human-wildlife conflict, primarily through livestock predation – a problem with far-reaching consequences, affecting both the livelihoods of local farmers and the security of the tiger population. .

Royal Manas National Park, home to the Bhutan Tiger Center. Image courtesy of Bhutan Foundation

"Recognizing this complex issue, the Bhutan Foundation, in collaboration with the Bhutan Tiger Center, is taking steps to mitigate the impact on local communities," the Bhutan Foundation noted. “We support an initiative to insure farmers against the loss of livestock, an intervention aspiring to preserve the balance between human activity and wildlife conservation. (Bhutan Foundation)

Originally founded in 1986 and relaunched in 2002, the Bhutan Foundation operates through offices in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu and in Washington, DC, with a stated mission to "support the people of Bhutan to reach their full potential by developing the local capacities and facilitating global support”. The foundation operates four programs focused on: environmental conservation; Sustainable development; cultural preservation; and Good Governance, aiming to serve the people of Bhutan by living and sharing the principle of Gross National Happiness through training and access to global expertise, new technologies and resources.

“Tigers play an important role in Bhutanese culture and religion. Manifesting as the wrathful Guru Dorje Drolo, in the eighth century, Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, came from Singye Dzong riding a flying tigress, believed to be his consort Nibni Trasgu Khydron, to Paro Taktsang (literally translated as the Tiger of the Tiger). Nest) in western Bhutan,” the tiger population survey noted. “The Guru and his Khandro are believed to have meditated in a cave where the main monastery is now located and the site is extremely sacred to Buddhists around the world even today. (Bhutan Foundation)

Image courtesy of Bhutan Foundation

Remote, landlocked and perched in the thin air of the Eastern Himalayas, the Kingdom of Bhutan, sandwiched between two political and economic heavyweights, India and China, is the last Vajrayana Buddhist country in the world. The ancient spiritual tradition is embedded in the very consciousness and culture of this distant land, where it flourished with an unbroken history dating back to its introduction from Tibet by Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, in the XNUMXth century. century.

Nearly 75% of Bhutan's population of some 770 people identify as Buddhists, according to the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center, with Hindus making up the majority of the remaining 000%. Most Buddhists in Bhutan follow the Drukpa Kagyu or Nyingma schools of Vajrayana Buddhism. Bhutan held its first elections as a constitutional monarchy in 25.

* Formerly World Wildlife Fund, although that name is still used in the United States and Canada.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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