The King of the jungle is faring better in Nepal compared to four years ago, says the finding the tiger survey, which was unveiled in Lalitpur to mark the International Tiger Day. The findings of the survey — conducted jointly with India to avoid double counting in the protected areas that overlap the national boundaries of the two countries — reveal that the estimated number of tigers in Nepal have risen from 121 in 2008 to 198 in 2012, a growth of 63 per cent that has elated the conservationists. The survey, which deployed camera trapping technology, also yielded the first sighting of clouded leopard in the Chitwan National Park after 20 years.

Although the survey was conducted simultaneously in the border areas of both Nepal and India to avoid double counting, the countrywide results from the survey in India are still being tallied, given the vastness of its geography, and a joint status report is expected in December.

 “The commitments and investment Nepal has made to protect tigers have paid off,” said Mr. Biswonath Oli, Director General of the Department of Forests, “this paves the way for Nepal to reach the target of 250 tigers by 2022”.

The International Tiger Day was created in 2010, at the St. Petersburg Tigers Summit of 13 tiger range countries. Three subspecies of the wild cat — the Bali, Javanese and Caspian Tigers, are already extinct. The St. Petersburg Summit resulted in a pledge to heighten national efforts to double the numbers of tigers in each country by 2022, the “year of the tiger” in the Chinese calendar.

Terai for Tigers

The Terai Arc Landscape is the conservation area to the west of River Bhagmati and east of River Yamuna.It includes two important national parks in Nepal Chitwan and Bardiya; as well as two in India, the Dudhwa and Valmiki in India, in terms of tiger population. It has the world’s highest density of Bengal tiger population. A meeting of Nepalese and Indian officials held early this year in Dudhwa, the sixth of its kind in trans-boundary biodiversity conservation, called for a joint strategy to recover tiger population.

The efforts have paid off. Mr. Ghanashyam Gurung, the chief of conservation programs at the World Wildlife Fund, Nepal, attributes the improved numbers to the corridor management, as well as anti-poaching units.

“Increased cooperation with China and India, for reducing poaching and trade of tigers, and for improving connectivity have helped,” he says, “ as has the expansion of habitat — Nepal created a new national park in Banke district in 2011 and has expanded the buffer zone in the Bardiya reserve — in addition to maintaining the prey species such as the monkeys, deer and boars.”

Conservationists say that challenges in protecting tigers are not over. Given Nepal’s increasing human population density in the Terai, worrying signs of human-tiger conflicts are already visible with tigers attacking a school outside of Chitwan Park, as well as the rising number of man eaters and the young tigers attacked by the adults in their territory.