Give Back to the Wild: A Conversation with Tiger Biologist Joseph Vattakaven
On Nepal’s National Conservation Day, the government announced that there are now an estimated 235 wild tigers in the country, up from a baseline of around 121 in 2009. This makes Nepal the first country set to double its national tiger population since the St Petersburg Tiger Summit, where Tx2 – the ambitious goal to double the world’s wild tigers – was set in 2010.
“Protecting tigers is a top priority of the government, and we are thankful for the able support of our partners, enforcement agencies, local communities and the international community for a common purpose,”
said said Bishwa Nath Oli, Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment.
Leonardo DiCaprio, WWF-US board member and chairman of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which has funded tiger conservation in Nepal’s Bardia National Park and elsewhere since 2010, also echoed this sentiment.
“This significant increase in Nepal’s tiger population is proof that when we work together, we can save the planet’s wildlife – even species facing extinction. Nepal has been a leader in efforts to double tigers within its own borders and serves as a model for conservation for all of Asia and the world. I am proud of my foundation’s partnership with WWF to support Nepal and local communities in doubling the population of wild tigers.”
This is not the first time Nepal has outdone itself in its efforts to protect wild tigers, wildlife and their natural habitats in the country. Nepal is the first country to achieve global standards in managing tiger conservation areas, based on an accreditation scheme governed by the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS). With four more years to go, the TX2 goal of doubling tiger numbers globally can only be achieved if all the tiger range countries step up and commit to a similar level of excellence.
From Chitwan National Park
From Bardia National Park.
From Banke National Park.
“Every tiger counts, for Nepal and for the world,”
stated Dr. Ghana S Gurung, Country Representative, WWF-Nepal.
“While Nepal is but a few tigers away from our goal to double tiger numbers by 2022, it also underscores the continued need to ensure protection, and improved and contiguous habitats for the long-term survival of the species.”
In May this year, Nepal celebrated a new benchmark with the achievement of 365 days of zero poaching of rhinos on five occasions between 2011 and 2018. This is another excellent example of real conservation change that can be achieved when a country unites and coordinates the efforts of the government, enforcement agencies, conservation partners and local communities.
The results came from an extensive national tiger survey conducted between November 2017 and April 2018 in the transboundary Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) – a vast area of diverse ecosystems shared with India. Camera traps and occupancy surveys were used to estimate tiger occupancy and abundance, while line transect surveys were used to derive prey density.
The tiger and prey-base survey were led by the Government of Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Department of Forests, in partnership with WWF-Nepal, National Trust for Nature Conservation and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Nepal. It was funded by WWF, ZSL Nepal, National Trust for Nature Conservation, USAID’s Hariyo Ban Program II, KfW/IUCN, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Panthera and WildCats Conservation Alliance.