With just about 3,200 tigers left in the world today, very soon the endangered species is likely to vanish from the face of the earth and live only in William Blake’s poem, like the dinosaurs that live only in stories today.
The future of wild tigers is bleak today as the surviving tigers are being poached across the forests of Asia to meet the demands of illegal tiger parts trade.
July 29 is globally marked as ‘Global Tiger Day’ and understanding the importance of the tiger in Bhutan, the Department of Forests & Park Services under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) celebrated this year’s Global Tiger Day with the theme, “Empowering Local Communities for Tiger Conservation” at Norbuling Middle Secondary School, located in the buffer zone of Royal Manas National Park, a place also considered to be a hotspot for wild felids, particularly the tiger.
At a historic event held in St. Petersburg in Russia, the governments of Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) and conservation partners pledged their support to double the remaining tiger population by the year 2022. TRC designated July 29 of every year as the Global Tiger Day.
In an effort to combat the pressing tiger issues, Bhutan along with 13 TRCs have been engaged to positively double the tiger populations by 2022, since the start of the tiger year (lunar calendar) in 2010.
The tiger conservation effort is a national responsibility, and cooperation and coordination along similar efforts are made within the TRCs. Department of Forests & Park Services invited the Indian counterparts from across the border of Indian State of Assam, fourteen officials comprising of field director, wildlife managers, and scientist and forestry officers joined the Bhutanese officials in observing the Global Tiger Day in Bhutan.
A cultural program by NFE and school children, inter-school art and skit competition along with display of exhibits on tiger conservation and related activities were showcased during the event.
The program was funded by the WWF-Bhutan Program, Wildlife Trust of India, and International Fund for Animal Welfare (WTI/IFAW), Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation and Royal Government of Bhutan.
The governments of several TRCs face major challenges in tiger conservation due to habitat destruction and illegal trade in tiger parts. Bhutan’s conservation policy recognizes the co-existence of humans and wildlife with the exception that this close co-existence is not without conflict, as tigers often prey on livestock, thereby inviting retaliatory measures from subsistence farmers.
To protect the tigers, the government have began offering cash compensation to affected farmers through community-based livestock insurance and alternative livelihood practices, often in the face of severe resource constraints within the government.
The four subspecies of the tiger, the Bali, Caspian, and Java tiger became extinct in the 20th century, and many scientists believe the fourth, the South China tiger, has also become extinct, leaving only five, the Malayan, Indonesia, Siberian, Sumatran and the Royal Bengal tigers alive today.
Of the 3,200 tigers alive today worldwide, about 150 are located in Bhutan.