In this recent blog from ZSL Nepal, the team tell us that with the success of increasing tiger numbers, comes the threat of increased conflict with humans but the flip side leads to greater involvement of local communities in conservation and decision-making to enable positive human-tiger coexistence.
Paving A Pathway to Human-Tiger Coexistence in Parsa National Park
In 2010, the Government of Nepal (GoN) committed to doubling its tiger numbers by 2022 during the Global Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Since this commitment was made, the GoN and other conservation stakeholders have put tremendous effort both at policy level and on the ground to successfully reach the target. Nepal has now achieved more than it committed, and tiger numbers have almost tripled in a decade.
Tigers, being solitary and territorial in nature, along with their recent growth in numbers, has led to their dispersal in nearby forests, corridors and sometimes in agricultural land and human-dominated landscapes adjacent to forest areas. Such tiger presence in forest fringes increases the chances of conflict sometimes leading to human deaths, livestock killings as well as tiger deaths. The focus for the Government of Nepal in recent years has been to overcome the possible risks of Human-Tiger Conflict (HTC) and to create a safe environment for both tigers and people.
Parsa National Park (PNP) is home to more than 35 mammals including Bengal tiger. It is one of the vital landscapes of Terai Arc Landscape connected to Chitwan National Park (Nepal) and Valmiki Tiger Reserve (India). In 2009 Parsa had only 4 tigers and now the tiger number have increased to 41, gradually turning towards the source site. The extension of PNP (annexing 128 sq.km.) in 2015, stringent protection measures and other conservation practices has helped in the rapid recovery of tigers in this park. The increasing tiger numbers and their dispersal in fringe areas in search of new habitats has raised concerns about possible HTC across PNP and requires coexistence between tigers and people.
ZSL Nepal, with support from WildCats is continuously working at PNP to protect both tigers and people. In the past few years, WildCats has supported ZSL Nepal to understand the dispersal and distribution of tigers across PNP and surrounding habitats, how to manage suitable habitats within PNP, mitigate HTC, maintain stringent wildlife law enforcement and how to conduct awareness campaigns. This has led a strong foundation to the recovery of the tiger population in PNP, however, tigers in PNP are expanding their territory and using buffer zone areas, corridors, community forests and other collaborative forests across PNP. Incidences of human attacks by tigers, livestock killing, and tiger deaths have been reported in recent years from PNP. Therefore, it is important to reduce HTC and maintain coexistence across this landscape for a long-term recovery of the tiger population. Communities play an integral role to conserve and protect biodiversity. Despite their high tolerance to the presence of tigers across the human-dominated landscape and community forests, HTC mitigation should be given proper attention as soon as possible to maintain coexistence between tiger and people.
WildCats supported project “Promoting human-tiger coexistence to secure the future of Bengal tigers” at PNP is assisting ZSL Nepal to build a strong relationship between PNP authorities and local communities, mitigating conflict with local people, monitoring tigers and providing PNP authorities crucial information for appropriate species-specific conservation planning to create a pathway for human-tiger coexistence.
Monitoring tiger populations is essential for conflict mitigation and provides crucial information to senior authorities about wildlife dispersal and distribution, ensuring local people are made aware of any possible risks. ZSL, in coordination with PNP is carrying out hotspot monitoring throughout the year using camera traps and recording direct/indirect observations in potential habitats of the northern buffer zone and other crucial locations of PNP to understand the dispersal of tigers and their presence in fringe areas. 24 PNP staff and Nepali Army unit were trained on identifying critical hotspots, handling camera traps and GPS, camera setup and deployment etc. for effective hotspot monitoring. These staff are now able to carry out monitoring and are regularly deploying cameras and recording observations. Likewise, this project has increased the awareness of over 100 community members representing community forests, leasehold forests, community-based anti-poaching units (CBAPU) and local people living alongside the tiger habitat on HTC mitigation approaches. They were informed about the dispersal of tigers in fringe areas. The importance of community-managed forest corridors in tiger movement, techniques avoiding wildlife encounters, tiger conservation needs, role of local communities in tiger conservation etc. has been briefly explained and discussed in workshops to promote human-tiger coexistence.
Also, as a part of an awareness campaign, this project has supported a digital display board for PNP that has been regularly used to spread conservation messages including an introduction on PNP and its biodiversity. Visitors and local communities are increasing their knowledge through this digital display board. WildCats have supported local communities to build predator-proof corrals to protect livestock from carnivores in past years. We have seen reduced livestock loss in villages where such corrals were built and through this project 30 more vulnerable households living at the forest fringes in the northern buffer zone of PNP have been selected to build improved predator-proof corrals. This will help to prevent livestock loss and encourage other communities to build such corrals and avoid the risk of human-tiger conflict. Also, fodder/tree saplings will be distributed to around 100 households to reduce open grazing practices and encourage stall feeding in this landscape enabling the growth and movement of tigers and their prey populations.
We believe that this project will help in improving human-tiger coexistence by resolving potential future incidents of conflict through community enhancement and adopting conflict mitigation measures. Furthermore, crucial information gathered through tiger monitoring from community corridor forests will help PNP to develop pragmatic conservation strategies in a participatory approach and create a favorable environment for human-tiger coexistence at an acceptable level.