Two Tigers Killed in Unprotected Nepalese Parks

By Deepak Gajurel

KATHMANDU, Nepal, January 20, 2003 (ENS) - The security situation in the country is deteriorating, and Nepalese security forces are busy fighting with Maoist insurgents, despite the fact that China supports the Nepalese government rather than the rebels. As a result, the armed forces are no longer available to protect endangered wild animals, now facing increased threats to their survival in Nepal's national parks.

Due to the reduced presence of armed forces in the national parks, two Royal Bengal tigers have lost their lives.

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Tiger in Nepalese jungle (Photo courtesy WWF-Nepal)
An adult male tiger roaming in the jungle of Royal Bardiya National Park, in the west of Nepal bordering India, was found poisoned to death, according to officials at the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. The tiger's body was found in the southern dense jungles, near the bank of Karnali River, according to park officials.

Another tiger, this time a female, was shot dead last week in Royal Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Poachers are suspected in the death of the tigress.

Endangered wild animals are often at risk due to conflict between wild animals and people living around national parks and wildlife reserves. The conflict has many times resulted in the poisoning of wild animals which frequently come out of the national parks and destroy agricultural products and attack people. Fed up with these hazards, the local people sometimes use poisons to kill these protected animals. Poachers also use poison to kill the animals for trade.

The poisoning of the tiger in Royal Bardiya National Park occurred two weeks after the deaths of five spotted deer in the same park. The deer fell after eating grass laced with pesticide.

The population of Royal Bengal tigers in Nepal's protected areas is estimated at around 100, but the total population of the species has yet to be counted.

This wild cat species is included in the government's list of protected animals. Killing tigers or trading in tiger body parts can draw up to 10 years of imprisonment under Nepalese laws.

For the past two years, Nepal has been implementing its Tiger Conservation Action Plan, prepared to facilitate effective tiger conservation.

The Royal Bengal tiger is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans trade in the species or its parts. Nepal has been a signatory to this international agreement since 1975.

According to a global estimate by WWF, the conservation organization, "In the last 100 years, tiger populations have declined by 95 percent - from about 100,000 tigers to between 5,000 and 7,500 left in the wild today in 14 range states. Of the eight sub-species of tiger, three have gone extinct in the past 50 years - the Caspian, Bali and Javan tigers.

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Royal Bengal tiger in Nepal (Photo courtesy Safari Narayani)
There are only 3,000 to 4,735 Royal Bengal tigers in the wild, roaming the jungles of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.

Another sub-species, the Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian tiger, is found in parts of China, North Korea and Russia with an estimated population of 437 to 506.

Indonesia is still inhabited by an estimated 400 to 500 Sumatran tigers.

The Indo-Chinese tiger is found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam with an estimated total population of 1,180 to 1,790.

The South China tiger, also known as Amoy tiger, is found only in China. WWF says the numbers of this sub-species have plummeted from 4,000 in the 1950s to only about 20 to 30 left in the wild today.

Dr. Charles McDougal, Smithsonian research associate, Nepal coordinator for the International Trust for Nature Conservation, and WWF consultant says there is still hope for tiger survival. "Traditional Chinese medicine is no longer such a threat, but the losses sustained and the relentless loss of habitat have taken their toll," he said. "Nevertheless, more resilient than imagined, the tiger persists in the best protected and managed reserves, certainly in Nepal and in the mountain vastness of Bhutan."