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29 Jul, 2022

Up from 121 tigers to 355 tigers in the past twelve years, Nepal is officially now the first country to double its tiger population. The results were made public by the Prime Minister of Nepal, Rt. Hon'ble Sher Bahadur Deuba, at the Global Tiger Day national celebrations held today amidst a large gathering in Kathmandu, attended also by the former Prime Minister of Nepal Mr. Madahav Kumar Nepal, including foreign diplomats from more than eight countries. Minister for Forests and Environment Hon. Pradeep Yadav who chaired the gathering spoke about the sense of pride for Nepal and congratulated his ministry and all conservation partners for over delivering on its promise.

The latest results of the tiger survey report in Nepal comes as astounding news for the global conservation community as a whole. "Over the past several months Nepal's wildlife scientists, researchers and technicians have been working hard on readying the findings that is a reflection of the impressive state of nature in Nepal," shares NTNC’s wildlife biologist and programme manager Dr. Naresh Subedi, who is also a member of the technical committee for the survey report. 

Nepal started its fourth tiger and prey survey from December of last year under the lead of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation (DoFSC) of the Ministry of Forests and Environment. Periodic assessments of tigers are being conducted at intervals of four years since 2009. The first, second and third nationwide assessments carried out in 2009, 2013, 2018 estimated 121, 198, and 235 tigers respectively.

"The latest tiger population in Nepal is nearly three times compared to figures we had in 2009-2010, which is nothing short of historical," remarks Dr. Chiranjibi P. Pokharel, NTNC's tiger expert. "Tigers are apex predators right at the top of the food chain, and their populations are intricately linked to the health of ecosystems and forests, so this is undoubtedly big news for wildlife conservation as a whole." 

Only a century ago, some 100,000 tigers were estimated to roam the wide landscapes of Asia. But by 2010, their population in the wild had drastically dropped by 97%, to about 3200 tigers, mostly due to severe habitat loss and poaching-related causes. As a response, the world's 13 tiger-range countries, including Nepal had pledged to double their tiger population by 2022 (TX2) through endorsing the 2010 St Petersburg declaration in Russia. Since then all tiger range countries, including Nepal, have taken important steps to achieve TX2. Among these periodic assessments of tiger populations are seen as necessary to measure the status of progress made.

Since the 2010 declaration to save tigers from the threat of extinction, there have been important initiatives made in Nepal at all levels. During this period, additional habitats for tigers and prey species have been secured, namely with the establishment of Banke National Park and the extension of Parsa National Park. Restoration of critical corridors for facilitating the safe passage and genetic dispersal of tigers following a landscape level approach has allowed for the movement of tigers not just between Nepal's disparate protected areas, but also in facilitating transboundary movement of tigers between Nepal and India. 

Special institutions for the conservation of tigers have been formed right from the top political level to the community grassroots. Today the Rt. Hon'ble Prime Minister of Nepal chairs the National Tiger Conservation Committee, whereas dedicated wildlife crime control bureau (WCCB) units have been set up from the central to district level to ensure that effective wildlife enforcement measures are in place. At the community level over 450 community based anti-poaching units have been formed. 

Presenting the survey process, at the event Dr. Ramchandra Kandel, director general, DNPWC, maintained that overall there was a strong focus on frontline staff capacity and community stewardship, together with regular research and monitoring, and science-guided policy support. Dr. Pem Narayan Kandel, Secretary, Ministry of Forests and Environment emphasized about the leadership and responsiveness for tiger conservation right from the prime ministerial to the community level. The MOFE secretary also attributed the role of local to national to global partnerships as a vital piece to the success story, with increased tiger investment and support coming from both domestic and international stakeholders.

Moving into the future, sustainably managing the increasing tiger population of Nepal will require putting in place additional measures over what is already working well. Habitat management efforts supporting large tiger prey species like gaur, swamp deer, sambar, nilgai and wild buffalo will need to be prioritized going forward. Managing human-tiger conflicts and engaging communities meaningfully to create conditions for coexistence with tigers will be increasingly key. Effectively managing corridors in a way that connect tiger habitats at the landscape level will continue to have a major role in the safe dispersal of tigers. Here wildlife-friendly infrastructure will have to feature more strongly across planning, construction and development works. The increased demand and value of wild tiger parts means that poaching and illegal wildlife trade will continue to threaten the survival of tigers. Thus ensuring that wildlife enforcement levels continue to have the capacity to keep out sophisticated criminal operatives will be fundamental. New threats to tigers, like the impacts of climate change, will need to be better established. Finally Nepal's tiger conservation success will have to be backed by good science that is able to drive policy and action. 

Speaking after the announcement, NTNC chairman Dr. Krishna Prasad Oli noted that "the post-TX2 milestone is evidence of Nepal's political will and frontline capacities in nature conservation, and this demonstrates that we are now in a position to lead tiger conservation efforts at the global level also."


Read full report here: STATUS OF TIGERS AND PREY IN NEPAL 2022