About The Project
The tiger is an apex predator and an umbrella species: ensuring their survival allows many species they need and live with to flourish in its large shared habitat. However, killing for profit or in retaliation, destruction of habitat for industries or subsistence, and a thriving illicit global trade have drastically reduced tiger populations across its range. Today, fewer than 3,200 tigers exist in the wild, spread across 13 countries in Asia and the Russian Far East.
Establishing Baseline Information on Key Species
Bhutan is unique in that its tiger habitat is contiguous across the whole country and extends from lowland subtropical jungles all the way to subalpine forests. The highest altitude for tiger in the world was recorded in Wangchuck Centennial National Park at 4,400 masl (meters above sea level). Bhutan is also the only place on the planet where snow leopards and tigers are found in the same landscape.
A population baseline for Bhutan’s mountain tigers is an important metric to help measure conservation success. It also allows conservationists to understand the spatial layout of important tiger habitat in order to better guide their protection. In addition, understanding tiger biology is critical to implementing effective conservation interventions. This project is a long-term initiative to build a sound knowledge base to guide tiger conservation.
Over the last three years, we have supported Bhutanese biologists at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in carrying out tiger surveys in Royal Manas and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Parks to contribute to Bhutan’s national tiger survey efforts. Results from these surveys will now be used to understand tiger movements and ecology. Conservation policies and management using sound science is the only way we can ensure that resources are focused on the right interventions in the right areas. In other words, it enhances higher return on conservation investment.
January 21, 2016
With a thriving population of tigers inhabiting unfragmented landscapes across Bhutan, it is now crucial for conservationists to understand tiger movement to ensure that key habitat requirements are protected for posterity. This requires accommodation of development activities within such landscapes in a way that is not detrimental to the long-term survival of this endangered cat. In order to collect this vital information, the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) has initiated a tiger radio-telemetry study in Royal Manas National Park and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park in partnership with the park management authorities. As soon as the monsoon ceases, trapping exercises will resume.
July 30, 2015
According to the National Tiger Survey of Bhutan report released by the government, Bhutan has an estimated 103 adult tigers. Important contributions to the survey were made by UWICE through its surveys in Royal Manas and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Parks. They also provided the science and rigor behind these surveys to have them withstand scrutiny by the global scientific community. Bhutan was thus established as a source population of tigers, with several females breeding multiple cubs that survive into maturity. The tiger surveys were fully implemented by Bhutanese biologists.
September 30, 2014
UWICE and the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP) completed surveys in JSWNP in central Bhutan. They placed 120 self-triggered camera traps in the Black Mountains. The field teams also discovered evidence of rampant musk deer poaching in the remote alpine meadow–subalpine ecotone that are rarely visited by officials. Such undertakings also present excellent opportunities for training and inspiring young field personnel through active mentoring. The field trips saw active participation from several JSWNP personnel and UWICE researchers. This project was supported by UWICE, JSWNP, the Bhutan Foundation, University of Montana, Wildlife Conservation Society, and National Geographic Society.
March 31, 2014
UWICE completed surveys in Royal Manas National Park in southern Bhutan. The team leader and head of the conservation biology department with the institute, Tshering Tempa, said in the past, studies on the subject were carried out on a short-term basis most of the time. “This is a comprehensive research and took us a minimum of four years,” he said. “We’re determined to understand tigers and other cats in these biologically diverse and as yet unexplored forests of our country.” Tshering Tempa said Manas was an extremely rich and productive ecosystem, which explained the high density of cats and associated species. “Also, Bhutan’s stringent conservation laws have played a role in keeping this magnificent place that sustains some of the last tigers on the planet alive,” he said. The Bhutan Foundation and WWF-Bhutan program supported this research.
This project is mainly implemented by the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) in partnership with the University of Montana, North Carolina State University, US Fish and Wildlife Services, National Geographic Society/Waitt Institute, and Karuna Foundation. Other partners in Bhutan’s tiger conservation efforts include the Wildlife Conservation Division, Department of Forests and Park Services, and World Wildlife Fund.
How You Can Help
As we embark on the exciting next phase of this project, biologists at UWICE are getting ready to start the tiger movement study in November 2015. Most of the necessary equipment and training have to be procured or sourced abroad. Further, logistics in Bhutan’s mountainous terrain drive up field costs. Nevertheless, results from this program will be critical in providing a sound basis for tiger conservation science. Any finding will also be Bhutan’s contribution to conservation science and will be useful in tiger conservation globally.
Your support will further tiger conservation in the following concrete ways: