… the country has about 131 individuals 

Choki Wangmo 

Bhutan’s tiger population is growing at a rate of 5 percent yearly, on average, with the current population estimated at 131 individuals across the country. 

This is an increase of 27 percent compared with 103 in the last national tiger survey in 2015. 

The fourth national tiger survey report launched on July 29 coinciding with the Global Tiger Day revealed that the tigers were found in the eight protected areas and nine forest divisions. Three hundred foresters from 10 protected areas and 14 territorial divisions were involved in the year-long survey. 

Most of the sightings were reported from the Royal Manas National Park, Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP), Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, Jigme Dorji National Park, Bumthang, Dagana and Zhemgang Divisions with tiger density of more than two individuals per 100 km2.

A total of 184 camera stations— covering 26,075km sq—also showed four out of five tigresses captured in the camera traps with cubs above 2,500m above sea level. 

Foreign Affairs and External Trade Minister Dr Tandi Dorji lauded Bhutan’s achievement in conserving the iconic species and increasing its population. 

The first tiger population assessment was started in 1989 with the help of hunters and livestock herders, followed by pugmark tracking in 1996-1998. Bhutan first conducted the tiger survey in JSWNP using remote camera traps between 2006 and 2007. 

Tigers are spotted between 100m in the southern foothills to the mountains as high as 4,500 metres, making it the highest tiger sightings globally. 

In 2010, Bhutan continued its commitment to protecting its wildlife when the country joined the global effort to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022,also known as TX2. In 2016, Bhutan nationally adopted the conservation assured tiger standards (CA|TS), with Royal Manas National Park and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park now CA|TS-approved sites, meaning that the management of these protected areas has proven to be of high quality.

Country Director of WWF-Bhutan Chimi Rinzin said: “This is a significant achievement and an indication of a very healthy ecosystem. It also underlines Bhutan’s commitment to biodiversity conservation.”

Although tigers once roamed most Asian landscapes, they are now isolated and restricted to just seven percent of their historical range and experiencing a rapid population decline, widely affected by the loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation, prey depletion, and direct poaching to feed the illegal wildlife trade.

Survey findings say that the tiger population in the country is threatened by poaching, habitat loss, and human-wildlife conflict.

Human-wildlife conflict remains a major conservation challenge. For example, reports show that between July 2019 and July 2021, a total of 560 livestock were killed by tigers in Trongsa.

At the report launch, the Global Tiger Recovery Programme for 2023-2034, a composite portfolio of tiger actions, was also launched – both national as well as transnational.

Next year, under the patronage of Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, Bhutan is expected to host the international conference on Sustainable Finance for Tiger Landscapes.

The national tiger survey was funded by Bhutan for Life (Nu 35.325 million), UNEP’s Vanishing Treasures Programme, funded by the Government of the Grand Dutchy of Luxembourg (Nu 4.69 million), and Nu 16.93 million from WWF-Bhutan’s International Climate Initiative funded by the German Federal Ministry of Environment.