In the eighth century, Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress to a cave in Taktshang where he meditated and created the aura to conquer the negative forces troubling Bhutan and the known world. Since then, we have been agonising over the persistent curiosity of our children who can be cruelly undiplomatic: “Apa, Ama, … did the Guru with the tall hat and stick really fly on a tiger? Can tigers fly?”

After two days of a tiger conference this week in Paro, where about 200 government leaders, ecological experts, and wildlife supporters, articulated scientific justifications to save the tiger, you could say we learnt that we can actually save the world by riding on the tiger. The premise of the validation is that this noble beast is an umbrella species whose habitat houses numerous other species. It is the apex of that food chain. So, protecting the tiger habitat helps maintain ecological balance which will ensure the harmony between man and nature and, therefore, the health of the planet itself.

The “Sustainable Finance for Tiger Landscapes” conference declared the determination to raise USD 1 billion by 2034. Veteran conservationists, funders, and government leaders also acknowledge that it is as important, to be conscious of how the money is used. Given the intricacies of international funding mechanisms and processes, that sometimes go astray, this is good thinking.

A unanimous view at the conference was that Bhutan, given its image and track record, is the right country to take the lead in a global venture to protect the tiger landscape, thereby helping to safeguard the planet. According to the President and CEO of WWF-US, Carter Roberts, this is obvious because good leadership is critical for such a task, and Bhutan has “an abundance of good leadership”. It was visible at the conference with Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, as the Royal patron, opening the conference and Bhutan’s Prime Minister and citizens of influence joining prominent conservation leaders at the largest global meet of its kind.

The ambience of the conference, and the spirit of the participants, was elevated to a new high when His Majesty The King joined the participants in an informal moment after the conference.

Participants of the conference agreed that, as the patron of the Tiger Conservation Coalition, Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen has triggered a triple win – for the tiger, for nature, and for the people. This is particularly meaningful because it overshadows the triple crisis – climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Another unique feature of the conference is that tigers are showing the way for the phenomenon of survival. This magnificent beast is fighting its way back from what was feared as an eminent extinction. It is not a small fight. Sadly, nothing matches the tragedy of human greed and we see in the lucrative black-market value of every part of the tiger. Tigers are better known today as inmates of a zoo and even tiger farms that breed tigers for commercial trade.

Of the nine sub-species of tigers in the world, three of them have gone extinct.  and currently, there is an estimated 5,574 tigers in the 13 tiger range countries.

Even as the tiger population is depleting in many countries the Bengal Tiger is growing in numbers. If we could understand “tiger talk”, they are likely to tell us that Bhutan is an ideal home. Our protected biological corridors provide the space for tigers to roam from one corner of the country to another, from lush subtropical jungles to the highest Alpine ranges that the tiger has ever climbed.

Bhutan also confronts consequences that are as unique as its policies. Even as the world laments the eradication of wildlife by human encroachment, Bhutanese farmers claim to be on the wrong side of the human-wildlife conflict. They sometimes lose as much as 30 percent of their agricultural produce to pests which enjoy government protection. The tiger has terrorised villagers by preying on domestic livestock in its old age.

The Paro conference rightly concluded that there can be no real solutions without community engagement. The Bhutanese government has already introduced schemes like pasture development, various income-generating initiatives, and compensation for livestock lost to wild predators to name a few.

We have learnt much about the tiger from research by wildlife and conservation experts, activism by animal lovers, and from human-wildlife conflict. But nothing matches the awe that this magnificent beast stirs in us, with exciting tiger stories that range from children’s folk tales to the adventures of famous heroes to the mythological prowess of the tiger.

Not only was the two-day gathering in Paro the largest international conference on tigers, but it was also a learning experience that brought together a group which was as diverse as its goal was singular. When politicians, bankers, sustainability specialists, multilateral and bilateral agencies, and activists strike a cord, there is a convincing ring that things will work.

Ultimately, the entire conference was united in one perception about its success … that Bhutan made it happen. The venue, the Duungkar Dzong in Druk Gyalpo’s Institute in Paro, is one of a kind. The spirit of cooperation and shared consciousness among the participants was Bhutan at its best, bringing out the best values in humankind.



Contributed by

Dasho Kinley Dorji