Government fails to make public wild cat population

Kathmandu, July 29

World Tiger Day was marked across the country today by organising various programmes. However, the government has failed to keep its promise to make the number of tigers in the country public on the day.

The tiger counting process had begun in November last year. Nepal has been conducting tiger census every four years since 2010 after the country signed ‘Global Recovery Tiger Plan’ at the Global Tiger Conference held that year in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

All 13 heads of government, who participated in the conference, also signed an agreement to double the tiger population in their respective countries by 2022. It was said that only 4,000 tigers were in existence then.

In line with the agreement, participating countries are required to make public the number of tigers every four years. The Department of National Park and Wild life Conservation earlier had also said that it would make public the number of tigers on World Tiger Day.

In March, ecologist Laxman Prasad Poudyal of the department had said that they had completed counting tiger heads through camera tapping method and were analysing the data.

According to DNPWC Director General Man Bahadur Khadka, they came across various problems and could not exactly determine the number of wild cats in the country.

“Apart from the excruciatingly painful process to segregate various wildcats from the thousands of photographs, open border with India also a cause for our failure to publish the result today.”

Khadka said an individual tiger roamed across an area of 1,000 square kilometres to 10,000 square kilometres, which meant they could cross the borders anytime.

“Until we are sure about it, we cannot make the number public. The international community is  watching us, so we cannot take the issue lightly,” Khadka said.

Tiger counting process needs meticulous research. Thousands of photos and videos acquired through camera tapping method needs to be segregated. The officials then examine each snapshot manually and then analyse stripe patterns. The number of tigers is then determined through a worldwide accepted mathematical process called ‘mark and recapture.’

Nepal is considered one of the important natural habitats of Bengal Tigers. These tigers are conserved in six various national parks of the country, that lies in tropical zone between the Bagmati River in the east and the Mahakali River in the west.

DNPWC had said there were 198 wild cats in 2013. The officials had claimed that the number increased by 63 per cent in comparison to 2009 after launching special programmes to protect them.

Speaking at a programme organised at National Trust for Nature Conservation here today, Minister of Forest and Environment Shakti Bahadur Basnet said, “While we are committed to  our promise to double the tiger population, we must also be careful not to encroach on their habitats.”