The vanishing tiger
Wild tigers are found only in Asia at present. Five types of tigers are presently found — Royal Bengal Tiger, Indo-Chinese Tiger, Siberian Tiger, South China Tiger and Sumatran Tiger. The life span of tigers in the wild is presumed to be 15 years, while those in zoos live to be 17-20 years. It is estimated there are around 5,000 to 7,000 tigers in the wild at present in Asia.
Tigers have proven to be the strongest among the cat species. It is not yet known why tigers have stripes, but scientists think stripes act as camouflage. Tiger stripes are like fingerprints — no two tigers have the same pattern. Most tigers have an orange coat with dark brown or black stripes accented with white.
The Royal Bengal Tigers are mainly found in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar. Nepal’s tiger population is distributed in parks bordering India, mainly at Royal Chitwan National Park.
It has been witnessed that destruction of habitat, poaching and high demand for tiger products have played a great role in diminishing this species. According to the last tiger census, there are around 100 adult tigers in Nepal.
There are illegal wildlife trade markets for tiger’s hide, bones and claws. The prices for such products are high because of the high demand for use in the Chinese traditional medicine. The TRAFFIC report has pointed out tiger bones have been used as treatment for rheumatism for ages in traditional Asian medicine. It is evident that with the decreasing population, medicinal trade in tiger bo-nes thre-atens to drive the already endangered animal to
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1973 (CITES) restricts its trade under Appendix I. The main law dealing with wildlife in Nepal is the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 and the tiger is protected under Schedule I. Anybody who disturbs or kills this animal, could be brought to trial under Section 26 (1) and sentenced fir up to 15 years in prison, or fined Rs 100,000, or both.
However, tiger conservation is a challenge here. Due to conflict, tiger habitat have been destroyed. Poaching and illegal trade have incre-ased due to slackening of security resulting from insecurity to security pro-viders. Yet the government is not in a position to address a full-fledged Wildlife Protection Action Plan though it has a handicapped Tiger Action Plan.
From time to time, media reports human killings by tigers. A sick tiger might find it easier to attack a human than hunt its usual prey. When a tiger kills a person, it becomes a
man eater. We have to take this as a lesson not to disturb tiger habitat.
Awareness campaigns for tiger conservation together with implementation of updated law with enough security may help control the diminishing tiger population in the wild.