Protecting tigers and farmers

It was not long ago that we celebrated the Global Tiger Day. Bhutan is richer with 28 more tigers since it last counted 17 years ago. The news made headlines and the country was lauded for its conservation efforts.

As an endangered species that is rapidly losing its habitat, there is a reason to feel happy when Bhutan is providing safe haven for the big cat. Farmers may view it differently, especially if they are losing their prized jatsham or the jersey cow to the tiger. The animal is protected and they cannot fight it. In the tiger-human conflict, the tiger gets the preferences even if it is committing crime of slaughtering and devouring cattle.

The tiger should be protected. There are not many left in the world and from the few, some have found Bhutan as a natural home. They are finding our forests one of the few safest places left on the planet. As a country that emphasizes so much on environment conservation, it is a good proof of our rich flora and fauna.

From the report of livestock killed in Nubi gewog of Trongsa, we can safely assume that it is not a single tiger that is killing livestock. Even by layman’s guess, a tiger will not kill a cow everyday for 11 straight days. It could mean that there is more than one roaming the forests of Nubi, which falls in a protected area. It is rare, but not out of the nature for predators like tigers to attack domestic animals. Either they got a taste of it or the natural prey is diminishing.

While we leave this to the experts to find out, it would also be wise to look at the interest of the farmers. There are many who rear cattle to supplement income. They are the source of milk and other dairy products besides being the beast of burden. A family losing a cow is a huge loss in the villages. Out in the wild and left alone, the frequent loss incurred could frustrate farmers. They could take the matter in their own hands and we know that man is the most dangerous predator.

There is compensation for livestock killed by tigers. Farmers are somehow feeling that they are not compensated and therefore not reporting attack from tigers. A farmer has to prove that his cattle are killed by a tiger to be compensated. It can be confirmed by the method of attack, paw marks and eating habit derived from the carcass.

If the compensation takes time because it is shrouded in complicated bureaucratic processes, farmers will be discouraged, especially when it is a peak work season on the farm. There is nothing much a farmer can do when the predator attack cows in the shed and not cattle grazing in the forest.

Tigers roaming Bhutan’s forests should be protected. So should the livelihood of the farmers. If we can’t save cattle from being killed, owners should be duly compensated and on time.

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