A nationwide tiger survey initiated by the Department of Forest and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, starting from February is in full swing. The survey will determine the exact number of tigers in the country.
The survey teams with appropriate equipment have been dispatched to the different locations in three regions where the presence of tigers has been earlier reported.
Once the field data collection is complete, the information will be processed, the result of which will tell the exact number of tigers in the country. The survey is essentially intended to understand the population distribution, density and the habitat of the tigers in the country.
As of now, the installation of cameras has been done in the Royal Manas National Park in southern belt and is targeted to be complete by mid June this year. In the east, the survey would be carried out from Khaling Wildlife Sanctuary and Chukha would be the starting point in the central region.
According to the Bhutan Tiger Survey coordinator, Sangay Dorji, 400 of the 800 cameras have been set up already in the southern region with areas divided into 1,500 grids and in every grid there are two cameras being installed. Each grid area measures 5/5 km.
He said that the cameras would be placed in areas with high possibilities of spotting or acquiring the photographic evidence of tigers till 4,300 meters above the sea level.
He added that the cameras would be stationed for three months and the monitoring team would keep a track of the findings and records every day for those cameras stationed nearby human settlements and walking distant from the road head. While the cameras stationed in far flung areas would be monitored and tracked every month.
The camera traps are placed in strategic locations where there are high chances of capturing the tiger movements. The tiger, usually the popular trail it follows, moving from one place to another, is expected to be captured passing through the camera.
The cameras are equipped with movement sensors and will automatically click and capture images whenever any animal moves within its sensor range.
Asked about the chances of double counting or the risk of counting the same tiger occurring in two different places as different individuals, the survey coordinator clarified that the risk of committing such a mistake is almost null. The survery coordinator said the stripes of the tigers captured on photographic evidence will be compared.
“All tigers have a distinct pattern of body stripes and no two tigers will have same pattern of stripes.” This, the official said, is an effective way of counting the tigers. “This is the international norm and practiced in many countries carrying out similar survey,” he added.
According to the research and reports on tigers across the globe, Bhutan is recognized as the only country where tigers are found above an altitude of 4,000m above sea level. Bhutan is also one of the prime tiger habitats in the world today. Also, the tiger is a nationally protected species under the country’s Forest and Nature Conservation Act.
Bhutan is home to about 150 tigers against a mere 3,200 tigers surviving in the world. Hence, the survey is being initiated at a critical time and the survey teams are optimistic that the survey will play a major role in Bhutan’s commitment to double the global tiger population to at least 6,400 by the next tiger year 2022.