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article imageTigers Disappear From Himalayan Refuge

By Bob Ewing     Jul 2, 2008 in Environment
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is alarmed by the dramatic decline of at least 30 percent in the Bengal tiger population of Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in Nepal.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has expressed its alarm over the dramatic decline in the Bengal tiger population of Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in Nepal. The April 2008 survey showed a population of between 6-14 tigers, down from 20-50 tigers in 2005.
There are an estimated 2,000 Bengal tigers remaining in the wild. Bengal tigers mostly inhabit the dry and wet deciduous forests of central and south India, the Terai-Duar grassland and sal forests of the Himalayan foothills of India and Nepal, and the temperate forests of Bhutan. They are also found in Bangladesh, Myanmar and China.
The Government of Nepal announced on July 1 based on the results of a long-term camera trap study conducted in large part by WWF. Camera traps are reliable monitoring tools, which are cameras with infrared sensors that take a picture when they sense movement in the forest. The Suklaphanta camera traps used two cameras positioned to capture tiger images from both sides of the tiger because its stripes are not symmetrical. Each date, time and location of a photographic capture along with a GPS coordinate is recorded in a log book.
Poaching may well be the major cause of tigers disappearing from this protected area. Ironically, armed poachers have been photographed by the very equipment set up to capture tiger images.
“The loss of tigers in Suklaphanta is undoubtedly linked to the powerful global mafia that controls illegal wildlife trade,” said Jon Miceler, managing director of WWF’s Eastern Himalayas Program.
“The evidence suggests that Nepal’s endangered tigers are increasingly vulnerable to this despicable trade that has already emptied several Indian tiger reserves—clearly, this is symptomatic of the larger tiger crisis in the region. We need a stronger, more sustained response to this issue in order to protect the future of tigers in the wild.”
The border between Suklaphanta and India is simple to cross and this ease of passage allows for easy and untraceable transportation of wildlife contraband. Unlike poaching of other species like rhinos where only the horns are removed, virtually no evidence remains at a tiger poaching site because all its parts are in high demand for illegal wildlife trade.
In May, two tiger skins and nearly 70 pounds of tiger bones were seized from the border town of Dhangadi; while last month, two separate raids recovered tiger bones being smuggled by local middlemen through the reserve.
“With only 4,000 tigers remaining in the wild, every tiger lost to poaching pushes this magnificent animal closer to extinction,” said Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, director of WWF’s Species Conservation Program. “Tigers cannot be saved in small forest fragments when faced with a threat like illegal wildlife trade—this is a global problem that needs the concerted effort of governments, grassroots organizations and all concerned individuals.”
WWF is willing to work even closer with local communities in such activities as improved community-based anti-poaching operations, entrenched informant networks and better-equipped rapid response teams are being strengthened.
Most poached tigers end up in China and South East Asia where they are used in traditional Chinese medicine, prized as symbols of wealth and served as exotic food.
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