The Global Tiger Day observed yesterday was to be celebrated indeed. A report on the tiger population revealed that Bhutan is richer by about 28 more tigers than the last count 17 years ago. We now have 103 Royal Bengal tigers.
Given that there are only about 2,500 Royal Bengal tigers in the world, Bhutan is home to more than 4 percent of the tigers. We welcome the news as we welcome the tigers to Bhutan. The magnificent predator has found a home even in our mountains in the north. It is now roaming freely across the country.
There is a reason to celebrate because we are reaping the fruits of the wise conservation polices our parents, especially His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, initiated a long time ago. If there is anything to be dedicated to His Majesty The Fourth King on his 60th birth anniversary celebrations, this is one worthy dedication.
The numbers in neighbouring regions has also increased, which is good news from the conservation point of view. The free-roaming big cats have found the plains of India and south Bhutan as safe homes. Decreasing numbers in India would be discouraging as the tigers roam freely in and out of Bhutan. At one point, the increase in Bhutan was attributed to the disturbance of natural habitat and poaching across the border.
The number is increasing in other countries in South East Asia, home to the same big cat. The efforts of protecting the tiger both in India and Bhutan should be appreciated. In Bhutan, tigers are rarely killed. They are respected out of awe. It is referred to as the Semchey Bom (big animal) avoiding the actual noun. It has found a place in the Bhutanese mind as a respectable creature.
The report of the increase comes even as news of the magnificent lion, Cecil, who was hunted for trophy in Zimbabwe, went viral. In Bhutan tigers are rarely hunted unless they fall into the trap of the farmer protecting his crop. Accidentally killing the beast is also punishable by law.
Bhutan, small as it may be, should be proud to accommodate an endangered species. It is a wonderful thought that the tigers of the plains are finding shelter in Bhutan’s unfamiliar, but pristine environment. They have ventured a long way up our mountainsides in search of new habitat.
This speaks volumes of our conservation policy and efforts. If the tigers could speak, they would agree that there are not many safe places left on the earth. Bhutan has committed to double the number of tigers by 2020, at this rate we can say we are well on the path to achieve that.
We hope that the tiger will not only survive, but also thrive in Bhutan.