January 26, 2011
FIRST TRANSLOCATION AND USE OF SATELLITE COLLAR IN ASIA
In an unprecedented move, a wild tiger has a new home this week after Nepalese authorities moved the animal from one national park to another. The transport of the highly endangered species was a first for the Asian country.
Chitwan National Park staff captured the big cat in September 2010, when the injured tiger wandered into a hotel in the tourist town of Sauraha, just outside the jungle park. The tiger, a male, was placed in a secure enclosure at the park's headquarters for treatment.
On Friday (Jan. 21), a team of wildlife veterinarians, wildlife biologists, park staff and conservationists tranquilized the fully recovered tiger and fitted it with a GPS satellite collar, then loaded the animal into a specially constructed trailer.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) supported the translocation with technical expertise and financial aid, working closely with the Government of Nepal and the National Trust for Nature Conservation. The satellite collar will help scientists gain a better understanding of tiger ecology and improve conservation efforts like anti-poaching operations. It sends data on the animal's location every half-hour, which will also help keep tabs on how the tiger is adapting to its new environment.
Under tight security, the big cat was driven 370 miles (600 km) west to its new home in a fertile river valley in Bardia National Park. Bardia is an extremely fertile valley abundant with prey, has strong anti-poaching efforts in place and connects to forest corridors and other protected areas in the Terai Arc Landscape. It is one of the few remaining areas where tigers have room to roam. Perhaps even more important, Bardia is not easily accessible by humans, which reduces the likelihood of human-tiger conflict.
“This successful translocation is a testament to the skill and expertise of Nepal’s conservation community,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of WWF, who participated in the operation. “To see this majestic beast released into his new home gives me hope that tigers—in Nepal and throughout Asia–can have a bright future.”
The Terai Arc Landscape in the Himalayas, where Bardia National Park is located, has one of the highest densities of tiger populations in the world and is recognized as a global priority landscape for tiger conservation. It is also among the world’s most critically threatened tiger habitats because the space is shared with millions of people. Tracking wild tigers and better protecting core populations and habitat is vitally important for Nepal to achieve Tx2, the doubling of its tiger population.
"Nepal is one of the countries in the world where the prospect of doubling the tiger population is quite good, if tigers are given enough space, prey and proper protection," said Krishna Acharya, director of Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
Based on agreements reached at the first-ever tiger summit in Russia late last year, governments and conservation groups from around the world are striving to double the globe's quickly dwindling tiger population. According to some estimates, only about 3,200 tigers still survive in the wild.
"This translocation — the first of its kind in Nepal — is a concrete example of our commitment to saving wild tigers using the best science available, including the application of cutting-edge technologies," said Deepak Bohara, the government's minister of forests and soil conservation.