Tigers and the Conservation Efforts in Nepal
Nepal is one of the poorest nations in Asia but is one of the best countries at getting locals to join the forest conservation and “Bagh Heralu” [tiger watching] efforts.
The TIGER in Nepal and surrounding areas:
The tiger in Nepal feeds on the wild boar, barking deer, forest bison (males can reach up to 3,000 pounds), and the main staple of their diet, the tropical elk called the samber.
Before cubs become independent, they grow to be the same size as the mother tiger, thus her preying rate increases. A tigress averages one kill a week but while feeding herself and three cubs she can kill up to 8 or 9 times a month.
The male tiger is 50% bigger than the female tiger and has a reproductive life of 2 and a half years. His main resource are female tigers.
The female has a reproductive life of 6.9 years and her main resource is a secure area to feed her young.
When a dominate male tiger fights another male tiger for his resource of females, the winning tiger, if he is the new tiger, kills off the cubs of the previous tiger so the female can mate again sooner
The female tiger has her first litter - she has 15 months to breed again – she experiences a 3 ½ months gestation period – she is restricted to her den for two months and just before she leaves the den to begin hunting again, her first litter is old enough to go on their own- then she leaves her den and hunts for the third, fourth and fifth months.
A tiger kill can be distinguished from a leopard kill. Leopards leave the rib cage of their prey intact and since they have smaller mouths than the tigers, they often eat all remnants of dried meat in the carcass, they “lick the bones clean.”
The Rana rulers of Nepal hunted tigers for sport, a chance for them to get out of the compound and a way to maintain political contact with the local people (since many people could come to see them while they were on their 2 to 3 month hunting trip).
The hunter [“chacariee”] …
- locates the tiger and studies how often the tiger visits that area [usually found in the jungle (area of dense vegetation) close to a road or a village)]
- ties a smaller, male forest bison to a pole to lure the tiger to make a kill
- waits about 24 hours, heads into the tall grass and follows the drag marks
- locates the tiger, quietly ties up the beat cloth - making a “V” shape with the tiger in the middle and the dart shooters at the apex
- shoots the dart at the tiger while in a tree anywhere from 11meters to 2 meters from the tiger
- ties the tiger onto an elephant, cools it down [fans the tiger, sprays with light water], tattoos its ear with the mark of the study and attaches a GPS collar to the tiger.
FYI- the GPS system is great at showing in great detail how the tiger moves, but it does not show the interaction of that tiger with any other tiger.
One recent GPS study showed that one male tiger went to 562 locations in five months.
Tiger Reserves started in Nepal in 1970-72 with the largest reserve covering 1,000 square km located near the town of Chitwan. The reserve sizes in the country range from 300 to 1500 squared km.
The population size of tigers in these reserves are critically small, ranging from 16 to 50 breeding adults (a reserve of 50 breeding tigers typically has a population of 150 tigers).
The overgrazing of common land in the middle hills of Nepal and inbreeding depression [small population and the chance of recessive traits frequently appearing] are big problems in the area. To solve these issues, there is an effort to “give the forests back to the local people” through connectivity and participatory conservation.
A group of locals and a researching ecology group lead by David Lewis calling themselves “Bagh Heralu” [the tiger watchers] started to survey the Nepali lowlands for domestic kills. This group would offer lunch to any farmers who would come into their camp and report a tiger kill so the study could create demographic maps of the area. The pride of the local “Bagh Heralu” has grown over the last four and a half years as they deem themselves the local tiger experts.
The main idea is to… work with the people and make sustainable land!
Instead of cattle grazing now on the Nepali lowlands, cattle are penned and fed pressed mustard or mustard cakes.
Quotes to think over…
1.Asian nations’ approaches to conservation is nice as they ask eachother…”how can our nation help you conserve?...”
2.“Tigers living in a healthy jungle don’t have to eat people.”
3. “In the 1930’s tigers were so abundant in Nepal that a single three month hunt organized for the viceroy of India killed 120 tigers.”
4. In the 1990’s tiger bones were crushed and made into tiger bone wine. Many Westerners think of this product as an aphrodisiac but sometimes to locals, the tiger bone is a source of valuable medicine. The villagers know best and it is always smart to consult the local villagers!
5. In the mid-mountains of Nepal, there are different reactions of the residents towards the tigers. This can change on a daily basis, however, with the loss of some valuable item. For the most part, the locals are more tolerant of the tigers in the area while the immigrants are typically less patient with the animal.
Activities/ Links of interest::
1. Big Map Activity
2. Nepal's Royal Chitwan National Park
3. What on a mountain? What's in a nature reserve? (Items, describe what is the resource? What is it made from? How is it made?
4. Himalayan Picture Sheet (place photos where the picture is located.)