The spotting of an adult female tiger in Kabesa, Thimphu on March 21 came as a big relief to the foresters of the National Tiger Centre (NTC).

Officials say they have been searching for tigers in the vast forests of Royal Manas National Park (RMNP) to collar and study.

Five foresters from the nature conservation division (NCD) rescued the threatened cat at 5am yesterday in the vicinity.

NCD officials said the tiger weighed about 160 kilogrammes. “It ate a goat carcass and drank well,” an official said.

An official from NCD, Sonam Wangdi, said that the tiger would be kept under observation for a few days at the wildlife clinic at Taba, Thimphu. “There is no sign of injury physically, but we’ll have to conduct some tests to be sure,” he said.

He said that it could likely be relocated once it becomes fit.

NTC’s programme director, Tshering Tempa (PhD), who is also a senior Tiger Biologist, was on his way to Thimphu from Gelephu yesterday.

“From preliminary information, we think it is not so old,” Tshering Tempa said.

He said it was uncommon for a tiger to loiter around human settlement.

Officials from nature conservation division said that the tiger was one of the tigers captured on camera in the forests between Sinchula, Dochula, and Chamina during the National Tiger Survey in 2015.

Foresters from the NTC said a three-year-old female tiger weighing 110kgs was caught and collared on February 9 at the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP).

Locals said that Azha Tag (Uncle Tiger), as fondly referred to by Bhutanese, was a good omen.

“Tiger represents authority and order, and witnessing such rare animals nearby villages is believed to be good,” a local resident said.

Residents who saw the tiger shared pictures and videos on social media, which went viral in minutes, prompting some to caution against sharing the images as the cat could fall victim to poachers.

A Changjeykha resident, Deki Seldron and her family, who moved to their new flat on March 20, saw the tiger on the way to work.

Deki was driving in front, closely followed by her husband. When she saw the tiger, she was stunned. “I couldn’t do anything, I was shocked,” she said.

Her four-year-old daughter was in the front seat. “She was very cool because she thought it was a pet,” the mother said. “She was eating sweet potatoes and said if the tiger wanted some sweet potatoes. She wants to see it again.”

Another resident, Cheki, thought the tiger was crossing the road, but it paused for a while and looked at them. “It came very close to us,” she said. “My husband, seeing the tiger, honked from behind and it left the scene.”

Meanwhile, Bhutan has more than 103 tigers in 2015 according to the national survey 2015.

The estimated range of credible numbers in the country was within 84 to 124. The country had around 78 tigers estimated in 1998.

According to the report, Bhutan forms the critical tiger conservation area within the global priority Tiger Conservation Landscape 37 for long-term persistence of the endangered cat species in the Eastern Himalayas.

Tshering Palden