1. Tiger and Snow Leopard in Bhutan
Tiger’s habitat in Bhutan is contiguous across the whole country extending form lowland subtropical jungles all the way to sub-alpine forests. Bhutan is unique as the highest altitude range for tiger is recorded in Wangchuck Centennial National Park at 4400 meters above sea level. Moreover, Bhutan is only place on the planet where snow leopards and tigers are found in the same landscape (Bhutan Foundation). According to National Tiger survey report released by government in 2015 has estimated 103 adult tigers in the country. The report also shows that almost 30 % of wild cat species can be found in Bhutan. Snow leopard is another key species in the interest of Bhutan’s conservation. Bhutan is first country in the world to conduct full national census and recorded 96 of the endangered big cat in the country (World Wildlife Fund, 2016). The snow leopard according to survey is found to be roaming from 3,404 meters to as high as 5186 meters. To provide vital information on the behavior and movement of big cat, Bhutan has collard snow leopards in Jigme Dorji National Park.
2. Tigers in Bhutanese Religion and Culture
Tiger conservation is accentuated in Bhutan’s culture and tradition. The importance and its significance dates back to eight century when Guru Rinpoche bought Buddhism riding on the back of flying tigress. The dominant creature is one of the four protector animal which is given high importance by the Bhutanese. “TAG” is the first of the other three protector animal, SENG, CHUNNG, and DRUK. The art of the creature is being crafted by woods and hanged on the walls of most Bhutanese and is considered to bring good merits and overcome the evils. Moreover, the pattern of the animal is being revered in most of the Bhutanese artifacts.
3. Role of Tigers in Food Chain
Tigers maintain top seat in balancing the ecology of wildlife. It is the ultimate king in balancing the food chain. The presence of tiger in forest is good indicator for environment’s health. It restricts and controls the dominance of other species which out-compete the role in food chain. For example, the deer’s population will be an outlier if tiger is absent. It will inhibit the growth of fodder and other herbaceous trees and importantly the crops. Tigers not only control the dominance of such species but also let to survive those which are environmentally fit.
4. Role of Tiger in mitigating Human Wildlife Conflict
Human wildlife conflict is a rising issue with the expansion of human population and the pressure on environment. The key animals like elephants, leopards, beer, monkey, deer and wild pigs are the frequent visitors leading to crop depredation and livestock kill. Recently, in the journal Biological Conservation the researcher lead by Dr. Phuntsho Thinley (Principal Research Officer in Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation of Environment) publish a journal: “The ecological benefit of tigers (Panthera tigris) to farmers in reducing crop and livestock losses in the eastern Himalayas: Implications for conservation of large apex predators”.
The journal highlights the beauty of tiger’s presence in settlement adjacent and vicinity. According to the result of the journal, leopards and Dhole occupies the area away from croplands when tigers are present around the villages with the distance ranging from 900 meter to 2800 meter. The paper also reveal that the result is otherwise when tigers are present in the vicinity of the village, leopards and Dhole occupies areas closer to farm with an average distance of 581m plus minus 85 meter. This according to the journal has reduced the mean livestock and crop loss to wildlife drastically by magnitude of “2.25”.
5. Tigers and Snow leopards role in Tourism
Biodiversity is one important reason for tourism in the country. Tigers and snow leopards are rarely seen by the people and in fact only lucky one gets a chance. Bhutan by the fact of falling in the biological hotspot region has good number of such species where in other world is facing severe challenges. But that doesn’t mean Tigers are 100% save in Bhutan. A tourist in 2016 asked me if I have seen Tigers and Leopards. He told me only lucky one gets a chance to see that charismatic and rare species. He also shared me the reason for his visit is to see Bhutan’s unique biodiversity and in fact to see Snow leopards and Tigers if he gets a chance. Likewise, tigers are the source of many tourists who are very much oriented in wildlife study.
6. Challenges in Tiger Conservation
Tiger conservation in Bhutan is challenged due to lack of ecological awareness and its importance to people. Bhutan being agrarian society with more than 70% of people living in rural areas is unaware of Tigers role in ecology. Tiger conservation in Bhutan is challenged with certain threats which include commercial poaching and wildlife trade and also with fragmentation of habitat. The parts and products of tigers have lucrative market in the region as well as in other parts of the world. The medicinal value of the part and its use in high price souvenirs drive certain self centered people to take part in such business. Fragmentation of habitat is directly linked with developmental activities. Bhutan being a developing country with certain activities likes road construction, hydropower projects, infrastructure development and industries are certain threats for tiger conservation. However, as an individual we can play our role in tiger conservation through awareness and reaching the significance of tigers to those who are unaware. The students have to be groomed from small to have interest in wildlife study and conservation before it becomes a history.
Today as the country celebrate wildlife day, I hope all people would keep the above importance of tigers and help to overcome the threats of Tiger conservation. When social media expands, I hope that my little effort in awareness through blogging would reach far to bring certain changes with the way people perceive and think of Tigers. Save Tigers for your successful crop harvest ad rich livestock. Tiger’s presence as shown by researcher, results to less livestock loss and crops. The villagers and farmers need crops and livestock for their survival, the world is afraid of Tiger extinction and loss. Therefore save Tigers so that the world will reap the fruit of synergy.