Behold the majestic queen!
A resident of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP), Rewa is a symbol of hope for conservationists.
Rewa was first spotted and captured on camera traps in 2012 in the forests of Nabji-Korphu in Trongsa during the Park’s rapid biodiversity survey of mammals. She was frail and thin. Rangers suspected she was feeding. Later, during the 2014-15 National Tiger Survey, Rewa was given the identification number BTN-17. The tigers were named according to their unique stripes.
In 2014, Rewa was again captured on the camera trap during the tiger survey in JSWNP. This time, she had three female cubs. Much to the surprise of Park’s officials, Rewa was captured in January this year with four female cubs.
A senior forester with the Park, Dorji Duba, who has been setting up camera traps for tiger monitoring since 2007, said, the sightings indicated that Bhutan had a healthy environment for such species.
“It also shows that our tiger population is increasing. The nation has promised to double the population by 2022,” Dorji Duba said.
Earlier this month, JSWNP was awarded the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS) accreditation certificate, recognising the park’s highest global standards of tiger conservation.
Camera traps have become indispensable tool for biodiversity surveys in the country.
During the National Tiger Survey from 2014 to 2015, 1,129 cameras were stationed across the country.
However, not all parks in the country have resources to monitor the endangered species. “Anyone can set up a camera trap but monitoring is more important,” Dorji Duba said. “To capture the images of tiger is a difficult process. It is rewarding nonetheless.”
The cubs are found in the deep, isolated forests.
As of now, JSWNP has 28 camera traps. Due to shortage of equipment, the cameras were changed from place to place after every two months.
“We keep a pair of camera in 5X5km square grid for two months because studies have shown that if there are tigers in a particular area, it would be back by two months,” Dorji Duba said.
Currently, the Park has 10 tigers. A tiger in the wild lives 10 years on an average.
The last nationwide tiger survey using camera trap concluded that the country had 103 tigers at a density of 0.46 tigers per 100 km2 for the whole survey area of 28,225 km2.
Tigers were distributed through the north-western, central, and south-central parts of the country between the altitudinal ranges of 150 and 4,300 metres.
While the density estimate of an overall survey is low, areas like Royal Manas Park, JSWNP, and Zhemgang division had higher density between two to three tigers per 100km.
The Forest and Nature Conservation Act of Bhutan 1995 enlisted tigers under totally protected Schedule I species.
Tigers in the country are threatened mostly by poachers.
Bhutan Tiger Action Plan (2018-2023) reported that according to the data with the forest department, tiger poaching was rampant in the country.
“Between 2013 and 2017, 17 cases involving poaching and illegal trade of tigers were recorded and prosecuted. This is almost 20 percent of the total tiger population in Bhutan. Many such cases would have gone undetected,” the action plan states.
The penalty under the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules of 2006 for killing a tiger was revised to Nu 1 million in 2013.
Despite challenges from natural factors such as prey depletion and changing climate, Dorji Duba said that the villagers set up snares to save their crops and tigers were killed. There were also incidences of retaliatory killing, he added.
About 5,325 households reside inside the park and 1,662 within the buffer of 500 metres from the parks.
Globally, there are 3,200 tigers in the wild.
World Wildlife Fund Bhutan supported the tiger monitoring activities in JSWNP.