Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tiger census planned in Nepal

Razen Manandhar
Kathmandu, January 31:

Various international non-government organisations are making plans to carry out a census of Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris) in Nepal's national parks.

Recent studies have put the number of the wild cats in Nepal at about 350 to 375.

A tiger survey has been initiated in the Bardia National Park with a focus on the Babai river floodplain. A team of seven park personnel will start monitoring from the Chepang area, the gateway of the Babai, according to the last updated draft of the tiger count plan.

"We are currently working on methods to conduct a survey in the national parks to find out how many tigers are living in the habitat, which is constantly under human threat," Dr Ghanashyam Gurung, the action country representative of WWF Nepal, told The Himalayan Times.

He expressed the hope that the count will most probably begin this season with support from various other institutions and will last for some six months.

"This is the first time the WWF is initiating such a survey. The past five years of the insurgency have had a marked impact on wildlife population in the Babai river floodplain," he said.

Gurung added that the WWF will also develop a congregated methodology of counting rhinos. He, however, refused to comment on the financial aspect of the surveys.

The current tiger population estimation is based on various sources and surveys carried out in the past three decades.

However, it has been felt that there is insufficient information on the demographic patterns of the tigers such as population structure, spatial distribution, home-range size, movements, social organisations, age-structure, survival rate, extent for breeding etc, according to a recent outline document for tiger conservation.

Currently, three isolated areas in Nepal remain as tiger habitats. Chitwan occupies the largest area where 75 per cent of the tigers are within protected areas. The other two populations are those in Bardia and Shuklaphanta.

A $1million revised action plan to conserve tigers and their habitat is on the final stage of drafting. It will consolidate various programmes on tigers for the coming five years.

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