National Tiger Survey in Nepal Officially Off-the-Mark

National Tiger Survey in Nepal Officially Off-the-Mark

Nepal’s National Tiger Survey 2018 officially took to the Terai Forests beginning from yesterday on November 30, 2017. Amid an inaugural ceremony held at the Parsa National Park Headquarters, two model camera traps were switched to life by the Chief Guest, the Secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) Dr. Yubak Dhoj GC, thus kickstarting  the operations that will go on up to March 2018. At the inaugural event, a wide presence of prominent personalities included those representing Government, protected area managers, conservation partner organizations, representatives from the local community and buffer zone user committees, academics and experts, including representatives from the law and security forces, as well as students and media persons among others. Chairing the ceremony a press release was also issued by the Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) Mr. Man Bahadur Khadka, along with a separate presentation session contextualizing the survey details. 


Representatives from Government and Partner Organizations among others at the inaugural ceremony 


Secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation switching on the model camera traps


Marking the third episode of the National Tiger Survey, the entire operation will be carried out across three major tiger blocks of Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape (TAL)–Chitwan-Parsa Complex, Banke-Bardia Complex, and Shukla-Laljhadi Complex. In order to determine the population of tigers, including the status of its prey species, camera trap methodology along with line transect and occupancy surveys will be carried out on 1887 grids of 2 km2 each designed specifically for this task. The entire operation is estimated to deploy more than 1200 camera traps and about 400 field personnel.


The exercise is being led by the Government of Nepal who will be supported closely on the ground by partner organizations like the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), WWF and ZSL. A special aspect about the current operation is that both Nepal and India plan to begin their respective country’s surveys about the same time, a clear indication of the two country’s transboundary collaboration soundness. This is a crucial step to enhance the science behind the survey, since major parts of the TAL region, that are home to Nepal’s tigers, share boundaries with neighboring India, that itself has the largest population of tigers in world.


On the ground, already 100 field personnel in 14 teams/camps have been charged as part of the first of three deployment in the Chitwan-Parsa Complex, this after providing them with the necessary training at NTNC’s Biodiversity Conservation Center (NTNC-BCC) in Sauraha on November 28 and 29. Each of the three deployments in the Chitwan-Parsa Complex is expected to take up to 22 days, making for a total of 66 days before completion of this phase. Each of the 14 teams comprise of about 6-8 members with a team leader each. Camp Coordinator of the Chitwan-Parsa Complex, NTNC’s Ashish Gurung notes that “with the passion and energy of our team members, we are eager to brave the storm and come good with interesting findings…and so although we know there lie challenging days ahead, most of us here think it’s a privilege to be a part of this important national assignment.” Majority of the team members are youths with a background in forestry or environment-related disciplines and naturally espouse a “spirit of affinity for the wild.” Besides, each team will have at least one representative from DNPWC, with most team leaders being from NTNC. Subsequent surveys will extend to the next phase in the Banke-Bardia Complex expected to start sometime later this month in mid-December.


Participants training before the first deployment at NTNC-BCC



Team members discussing grid map particulars before heading out to survey


As part of the St Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation in 2010, the current survey marks a significant step in achieving the country’s target of doubling tiger numbers (T×2) by 2022—from 121 tigers in 2010 to 250 tigers. Prior to this, the last national survey undertaken in 2013 had established the country’s tiger population at 198.


Ecologist of DNPWC acknowledging partner organizations at the National Tiger Survey 2018 inauguration