Chhimi Dema 

Rural communities in the country living with tigers lose livestock to the magnificent beast every year. While the country is applauded for its successful tiger conservation efforts attempts are made to recognise and help the villagers to compensate for their loss.

A study found that sixty-nine percent of the 91 households in 10 villages within the biological corridor lost 251 animals to predators between 2016 and 2018.

Tigers were responsible for 58.9 percent (148 kills) of the livestock deaths followed by snow leopards with 32 kills.

The biological corridor connects Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in central Bhutan and Wangchuck Centennial National Park in the northern region.

Sephu Gup, Dawa Tshering, said that human-tiger conflict is common in the gewog.

“The forest officials tell us not to harm the animal but people are endangering their lives with tigers roaming in the vicinity,” he said.

According to the gup, people have not received any compensation for the loss of livestock to wild animals such as tigers or leopards so far.

It is estimated that in 2020 nearly 47 million people were found within the boundaries of the tiger range, with an additional 53 million people living within 10 km of those landscapes.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s report called Living with Tigers states that the wild tiger populations are on the rise following a 2010 agreement by tiger range countries to double the global population of the species by 2020.

This recovery has been highly uneven, according to the report which states that South Asia accounts for the vast majority of this increase. “This is especially impressive given that it is one of the most densely populated regions in the world.”

A total of 41 percent of tiger landscapes fall within the country’s protected areas. The country has an estimated 103 tigers.

Head of Bhutan Tiger Center, Tshering Tempa (PhD), said that the communities are extremely tolerant of tigers.

“Despite losing many of their livestock to tigers, our communities do not retaliate and kill them,” he said, adding that this was the biggest contribution that farmers have made to tiger conservation.

The centre provides alternative livelihood programmes such as providing an improved breed of livestock, bio-gas digesters, eco-tourism opportunities, farm machinery, and electrical fencing to protect crops.

BTC, as a support to the communities, built 200 bio-gas digesters, 10kms of electrical fence, three eco-camps, and eco-trails one visitor centre; provided 80 jersey cows; trained 50 youth on housekeeping and nature guiding in five gewogs of Zhemgang and Sarpang dzongkhags.

Tshering Tempa said that the centre starting July 29 will start the gewog tiger conservation tshogpa (GTCT) which is a community-based tiger conservation fund in six gewogs of Nubi, Tangsibji, Langthel, and Nabji Korphu in Trongsa, Nangkhor in Zhemgang, and Chumey in Bumthang.

The centre provides Nu 1 million as seed money for the GTCT and the member pays a minimum premium for their registered livestock.

The tshogpa is the first of its kind in the country.

Tshering Tempa said that the country can use tigers as a source of livelihood opportunity for the communities living with tigers. “In Bhutan, human-tiger conflict is the biggest threat that can undermine all our conservation success.”