Two tigers “killed” in a month

Rinzin Wangchuk  

Are  humans always on the losing side in the human-wildlife conflict?

Going by what is happening in Trongsa, farmers are likely to believe that they are, at least in the dzongkhag. Farmers in Trongsa report one of the highest human-wildlife conflicts, especially with tigers. They claim that they are at the losing end.

Among the five gewogs in the dzongkhag, Nubi gewog reported the maximum tiger attack cases. Over the past two years, the gewog lost more than 160 cattle to predation, all to tigers. Quite often, farmers are prosecuted for killing tigers that kill their cattle, the main source of livelihood for many.

Recently, farmers of Drakteng and Langthel gewogs were accused of  killing two tigers. The tigers, listed as endangered, reportedly got trapped in snares set for wild boars.  The two gewogs did not experience tiger problems in the past, but predation of crops from wild boars is a big problem.   

The Jangbi case

The first incident occurred in August this year in Jangbi village, Langthel gewog. Three men were apprehended and were later released on bail.

Kuensel sources said that the incident happened after a non-Bhutanese in his early 70s set a snare for wild boar. However, the tiger got into the snare. Sources said that the tiger panicked and could have fallen off the cliff along with the snare.

The man who set the snare, reportedly went to check the site after three days and found that the tiger had dragged the snare along with the poles to hold the snare, and fell off the cliff. The suspect along with his son and son-in-law skinned the tiger.

Langthel gup Rinzin Wangchuk said that those involved  did not report the incident to the gewog office or forestry officials. “Perhaps they were scared of legal consequences or were not aware of such a case requiring them to report to concerned authorities,” he said.

Forestry officials later came to know about the “illegal poaching” and arrested three men. Jangbi falls under Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. According to a park official, the investigation was completed and they forwarded the case to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for prosecution. However, details of the investigation were not available. Kuensel learnt that three suspects were released on bail. Kuensel learnt that the accused, a non-Bhutanese, has been living in the village for more than  five decades.

The Samcholing incident

Police in Thimphu and Trongsa reportedly detained four men in connection with the killing of a tiger in Samcholing, Drakteng gewog last month. Thimphu police arrested two men and seized tiger’s skin and parts in their possession while they were travelling to Thimphu.

According to police, the case was forwarded to the forestry officials for further investigation. “We don’t know the details,” a police officer said. Sources said that two more people from Samcholing were apprehended after the investigation conducted by forestry officials.

It was learnt that the tiger was trapped and died in the boar snare. Fearing that the accused would be caught by concerned authorities, they buried the tiger. Later, after knowing the value of the tiger’s skin and bones, they reportedly dug out the remains to sell.

Samcholing Khatoed tshogpa, Namgay, said that they came to know about the incident when forestry officials, during the meeting with the people of Samcholing, shared some details of the incident. “I heard that four people involved in the case were detained and later bailed out,” he said.

Kuensel attempted to contact forestry and local officials in Trongsa and Thimphu, including the minister for agriculture and forests on the two incidents. However, they said the reports are yet to be confirmed.

What rules say

As per the forest and nature conservation rules and regulations of Bhutan, 2017, tigers fall under totally protected species of wild animals. If a tiger is killed, the offender is liable for a fine of Nu 1 million (M).

For any missing parts, for instance skin, one has to compensate Nu 0.3M and another Nu 0.3M for the set of bones (432 numbers), Nu 30,000 for four canines and Nu 5,000 each for 16 claws. If the offender attempted to catch or injure a tiger and snow leopard, he will be liable for a fine of Nu 0.5M.

Any offence committed in relation to totally protected species are liable for criminal offence of fourth degree felony under Bhutan Penal Code. The National Assembly (NA) in June this year passed the Forest and Nature Conservation Bill 2021 and increased the offence of killing wild fauna and species, listed under Schedule I, to a felony of third degree. NA also retained the same fine of Nu 1M for killing a tiger. The bill was forwarded to the National Council for deliberation in the coming winter session.