Chhimi Dema  

Bhutan has fulfilled tiger conservation commitments, according to the head of Bhutan Tiger Center, Tshering Tempa (PhD). He reported this during the Fourth Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation that was held on January 19.

According to Tshering Tempa, Bhutan has fulfilled a commitment to monitor and maintain a viable tiger population, mitigate human-tiger conflict, and create an agency within the forests and park services department for tiger conservation (the Bhutan Tiger Centre was established in 2017).

To reduce tiger poaching, smart patrolling was initiated and fines were increased from Nu 50,000 to Nu 100,000.

Bhutan made these commitments during the Third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation in 2016.

There are 103 tigers in the country, and approximately 3,900 tigers in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The presence of tigers in the forest is an indicator of the well-being of the ecosystem. Tigers are the apex predator of the food chain and keep the population of wild ungulates in check, thereby maintaining the balance between prey herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed.

A WWF press release states that at the Fourth Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, government and non-governmental experts are working to advance the preservation of the largest and most endangered big cat species.

Tshering Tempa said that Bhutan is at the forefront of the global initiative for tiger conservation.

He said that the conservation policies in place and political will in Bhutan have consistently considered tiger conservation to be an important component of the development.

“If there is one singular threat in Bhutan that will undermine tiger conservation efforts, it will be human-tiger conflict,” Tshering Tempa said.

Almost 60 percent of the population resides in rural parts of the country, and there are settlements in the protected areas.

The Bhutan Tiger Centre started initiatives such as conservation through compassion, community-based tiger conservation funds, and developing eco-tourism products to improve the livelihood of the people living in and around tiger habitats.

According to the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2017, criminal offences related to protected species such as tigers, snow or clouded leopards, musk deer, and takin are a fourth-degree felonies under the Bhutan Penal Code.

Tshering Tempa said that the tiger conservation effort in Bhutan will serve as a “heart that will pump” tigers to other regions in the Easter Himalayan landscape. “If investments are made in Bhutan for tiger conservation, tigers can repopulate in other countries.”

The three-day conference is being held before the Second Global Tiger Summit in Russia in August where the heads of the states from 13 tiger range countries will meet to work towards tiger conservation.