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JSWNP a hotspot for wildcat species

Despite initial expectations being belied, there’s optimism about the corporation’s future

Wildlife: The Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP) is now a hotspot for wildcat species.

A camera trapping exercise that started in 2010, recorded 12 individual tigers.  It is estimated that between 14-26 live in the park.

A policy brief released by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) on April 16 aims to highlight the latest research findings and provide recommendations on key environmental issues.

“The policy brief will be a guidance to the policy makers on what are the areas that needs to be emphasised on tiger conservation efforts,” Department of Park Services (DPS) Director General, Chencho Norbu, said.

UWICE Director Nawang Norbu said that similar policy briefs on other fields, such as forestry, will also be released as and when the institute is able to conduct surveys and studies.

The policy brief states that the recent camera trappings confirm that the density of tigers is much higher than a previous estimate of two tigers per every 100 square kilometres at JSWNP.

Two of the tigers were spotted with two and three cubs each at different locations.

“Finding of cubs also means that the tigers are breeding and thriving within the park area,” UWICE wildlife biologist Tshering Tempa said.

JSWNP, which connects with the Royal Manas national park, forms an important link between the Terai regions of Nepal, northeast India, Myanmar and South East Asia.

“Given the abundance of the tigers, JSWNP and the Royal Manas national park could serve as a source of tigers within the region,” the policy brief states.

Camera traps also captured seven other species, such as the threatened Asiatic golden cat (Pardofelis temmincki/ Catopuma temmincki), leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalenisis), jungle cat (Felis chaus), marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), common leopard (Panthera pardus) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa).

No tigers were however caught in the northwestern part of the park, where incidents of poaching have been recorded.

“It means that the tigers are retreating from the places where there has been records of poaching,” Nawang Norbu said.

The policy brief therefore recommended institutionalised patrolling, manning park staff with GPS technology, binoculars and advanced communications equipment.

“Patrols should be initiated in areas with higher evidences of poaching at least once a month to carry out, combined with long-term research and monitoring of camera traps,” the policy brief states.

UWICE also recommended systemised anti-poaching stints.

Tshering Tempa said that, since the increased presence of tigers would lead to an increased incidence of livestock loss and incidents of human wildlife conflict, anti-poaching activities must be prioritised. “The policy makers must therefore increase the stints of anti-poaching activities to secure the stable tiger population,” Tshering Tempa said.

The policy brief also called for research into why tigers are avoiding the northwestern part of the park, to derive clues on developing methods and strategies to best restore the abandoned habitats.

A combined estimate of Nu 4.7 million would be required for supply of equipment and patrolling, which is recommended to be taken up either by the government or relevant conservation agencies.

The survey on tigers in the southern part of the country has also been completed.  Efforts will now move to the middle and northern parts of the country.

It is expected that a comprehensive assessment of tigers in Bhutan will be completed by December.

The global population of tigers stands at a dismal 3,200 currently.  Three of the eight tiger subspecies have already gone extinct.

 

By Tempa Wangdi, Bumthang

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