14 June, 2009 - At least one snow leopard has been killed by poachers every year since the enactment in 1995 of the forest, nature and conservation Act, which prohibits the killing of endangered wild animals in the country.
Records until 2007 with the nature conservation department (NCD) show that 193 wild animals were poached between 1992-2007. These include 15 snow leopards, five tigers, 61 musk deer, a porcupine and a python.
NCD officials said that, although tigers and snow leopards are endangered species, poaching and illegal trade poses a threat to these animals, even in protected areas. The high commercial value of certain species attracts poachers, according to conservation officials. Prominent species poached for commercial trade include tiger, musk deer, black bear and Chinese caterpillar (Cordyceps sinensis).
"Poachers mostly use guns and arrows or set traps, which have even snared humans and domestic animals," said NCD's chief forestry officer, Dr Sonam Wangyel Wang.
To protect these big cats, WWF and local wildlife authorities are working together to establish anti-poaching units and strengthen anti-poaching law enforcement. In addition to poaching, WWF and its partners are addressing human-wildlife conflict, by setting up a compensation fund for local farmers, whose livestock is often killed by tigers and leopards.
Around 26 percent of Bhutan's land is under protected area, but poaching is encouraged by demand from other countries. Tigers are particularly threatened as its parts are used in many traditional East Asian medicinal disciplines. "There also exists a commercial demand for non-medicinal parts of the tiger, most notably the skin, teeth and claws," said Dr Wang. "Besides poaching, human/wildlife conflicts also result in the killing of wild animals."
Officials say that the protected areas do not have adequate human resources for enforcement, making it difficult to implement an effective anti-poaching strategy. Data, regarding the degree of poaching and killing, is also generally inadequate.
"If law enforcement isn't strengthened and strict measures put in place to curb poaching, Bhutan may lose valuable species of wildlife within a short period of time," he said, adding that officials in the field must be equipped well to combat poaching.
By Nima Wangdi
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org