First of all, we wish you a prosperous New Year and we hope that 2021 will also lead to further success for nature conservation in Nepal. In the dark gray 2020, which is behind us, some things have been extremely difficult due to ‘Covid-19 constraints’, but still…
The COVID lockdown both in Nepal and the Netherlands has meant no travelling between the two countries which is why we were not in Nepal this spring. The board of the Himalayan Tiger Foundation (HTF) is, however, in almost daily contact with all our tiger conservation partners in Nepal, in particular the National Trust for Wildlife Conservation (NTNC), and in the Netherlands, through video conferences, skype meetings, phone calls and emails.
First, we are happy to inform you that all our Nepali and Dutch friends participating in our tiger conservation research programme are still in good health and able to continue their work.
Wild elephants attacking people, damaging houses, eating crops. Tigers killing people, leopards preying on livestock. This is the almost daily practice in some part of southern Nepal: the ever-increasing ‘human wildlife conflict’. A striking example is that of Indra Acharya, who was raided by an elephant during his wedding night in his cottage at the edge of the Bardiya National Park. A wild tusker did not leave any stone of Indra’s house standing, so that the young couple barely escaped. A disturbing event, to say the least. Indra’s comment was indicative of the resilience of the Nepalese: “You know, it was my honeymoon and this elephant was probably a little jealous…”
The Himalayan Tiger Foundation will have been in existence five years at the end of this year. During that time many projects have been accomplished one example being the most recent one, a new website which is more functional and more user-friendly. From now on we plan to post newsletters frequently to give you an update on our activities. This newsletter presents an overview of the current state of the research projects initiated and financially supported by our foundation.
April 18, 2017 – We stood by one of the side arms of the Karnali River in Bardiya and just about to leave when we heard alarm screams from a number of deer, followed by crackling of bones, and a little later rustling in the bushes just in front of us. A large male tiger dragged his lunch snack down just before our eyes and disappeared into the tall grass on the other side of the river. Not easy, a deer of 80 kilos between your front legs, but as a predator you have to have something for lunch.
When we were in Chitwan last November, Chiranjibi Pokharel (Head of our partner organization Nepal Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) in that area) showed us a number of large grasslands, threatened by a rapid encroachment of forest. There is a suspicion that this might be caused by low groundwater levels: upstream a lot of water is used for irrigation, hydro-power and drinking water. Also the – mostly illegal – extraction of sand and stones does not really help. So Chitwan is in danger. By decreasing grassland, the number of deer will also decrease – and in the long run the number of tigers.
The reports about the welfare of the Nepalese tiger are mixed. On the one hand, their number seems to increase, on the other hand poaching is still an issue. See this article in the Kathmandu Post of February 12, 2016. The big question is: does the number of tigers really increase to the extent as reported? Or is it a question of ‘better counting’ (through modern techniques and a better covering of tiger area) and ‘political desirability’ (to arrive at an acceptable result)? Not enough is known about this, but it is certain that the attention for the animal in Nepal is increasing, as evidenced by the fact that this poaching appears broadly in the newspaper, with the name and surname of the guilty.
The World Wildlife Fund (USA) is positive about Nepal: “How Nepal Got to Zero Poaching. Nepal, the small Himalayan country that likens itself to a yam caught between two stones with China to the north and India to the south, has been able to achieve 365 days of zero poaching twice: in 2011 for rhinos, and for 12 months ending February 2014, for rhinos, tigers and elephants”.
Twice a day Michelle Kral counts ‘her animals’ along six transects in the park: once in the early morning and again in the late afternoon. Michelle is a biology student at Leiden University and Imperial College in London. She stays in Bardiya from October to Christmas 2014. ‘Transects’ is a line on the map between two GPS locations – wayponts – of about two kilometers in length.