Today, approximately 150 tigers live in the semi-tropical forests and grasslands of the Terai, a lowland zone south of the Himalayan range on the border between Nepal and India. If nothing is done soon, within the next ten to twenty years none will be left.
The world population of tigers living in natural habitat is estimated between 1.300 and 3.200. No one knows exactly, but whatever the number is, it is small in comparison to the 20.000 tigers living in captivity (in zoos, circuses, etc.).
Around 1850 about 100.000 tigers roamed the forests of Asia. Today only a fraction (7%) of their former territory is left. The Terai is one of the regions where remaining forests and grasslands provide a habitat for the Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris ), the subspecies inhabiting the Indian subcontinent. Large-scale deforestation and poaching are the main causes of the dramatic decline of tiger populations.
Can the tiger be saved?
During the Global Tiger Initiative in St. Petersburg in 2010, all ‘tiger countries’ – including Nepal – have signed an agreement to double the number of tigers in 2022. The Nepalese Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), in cooperation with World Wildlife Fund Nepal (WWF-NP) and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) are working together to reach this ambitious goal.
Nepal wants to have doubled the number of adult tigers to about 250 by 2022. The sharp decline from poaching now seems under control – a great achievement indeed. But the big question is: how to double the number of remaining tigers within a rather short period of time? Certainly no easy task.
A substantial expansion of the habitat of the tiger in the period till 2022 does not seem realistic: the human population pressure in southern Nepal is simply too high.
A more realistic option is to optimize existing tiger habitat within the current boundaries of the national parks, their buffer zones and corridors to increase the ‘carrying capacity’. In simple terms: if we are able to accommodate higher prey availability, the tiger population will grow.
Himalayan Tiger Foundation supports
But… how to optimize the habitat for the tiger?
This requires active and innovative habitat management based on research. The Himalayan Tiger Foundation’s support is focussed on Bardiya National Park (970 km2) connected with Banke National Park, established in 2010 (550 km2). Both parks form a large natural area in southwest Nepal.
Research is necessary because there are still many ‘unknowns’:
- Do the Karnali and Babai rivers provide sufficient water in the long run to sustain grasslands in Bardiya? Banke is a rather dry area – can it be transformed into a tiger-haven too?
- Why and how was tiger habitat lost and can this process be reversed?
- Can doubling the number of deer double the number of tigers?
- And how to create more and better grasslands (grazing lawns)?
- What role can mega-herbivores like wild elephant, rhino and Gaur play in maintaining tiger habitat?
- How to understand and mitigate the Human Wildlife Conflict?
To double the number of tigers answers have to be found and actions undertaken on above issues. Therefore the Himalayan Tiger Foundation has initiated the 2xT Support Programs, focussing on ‘Research’ and ‘Action’.
Both programs have been developed in close consultation with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), in cooperation with University of Wageningen, the University of Leiden (both in The Netherlands) and University of Antwerp (Belgium).
The Himalayan Tiger Foundation aims to structurally strengthen the research and management capacity of Nepali institutions dealing with nature conservation in general and tiger conservation in particular.
The Himalayan Tiger Foundation invites young and bright Nepalese conservation officers to do a PhD-study on 2xT research issues at a European university. The fieldwork will be done in Bardiya and Banke National Parks and its surrounding buffer zones and corridors.
Issuing Tiger Certificates
The 2xT Research & Action Support Programs runs from 2014 to 2022. The budget for the remaining period 2017 – 2022 is € 785.000. This covers the research and education expenses of five PhD-studies and a number of resulting conservation actions. The total of current commitments, expected subsidies and other contributions add up to € 150.000. To cover the remaining € 350.000 the Himalayan Tiger Foundation issues 140 Tiger Certificates, valued at EUR 2.500. The Foundation has charitable status in the Netherlands (ANBI) and Certificates are tax deductible.
Go here for an example of a Tiger Certificate