A problem-tiger that had attacked and killed one of Bardia National Park's elephant mahout two days ago has been brought to the NTNC-Central Zoo in Jawalakhel today. Including the present incident, camera trap information on-the-ground from Bardia link this particular tiger to three killings altogether—one as recent as March 16, 2021, and before that on November 05, 2019. Overseeing the safe custody of the man-eating tiger at the Central Zoo in Jawalakhel today was the Minister for Forests and Environment Hon. Prem Bahadur Ale, accompanied by NTNC Member Secretary Sharad Chandra Adhikary, NTNC Executive Director Dr. Siddhartha Bajra Bajracharya and DNPWC Ecologist Hari Bhadra Acharya.
On April 04, 31-year-old Mr. Pulishram Chaudhary, who was part of the ongoing national rhino census 2021 team in Bardia National Park, after finishing the day's duty from the scheduled census had gone to the Gaidamachan area (core park area) to collect grass for feeding his elephant. He was attacked at about 17:15 hrs. Upon learning about the incident, a joint team comprising of Bardia National Park (BNP), Nepal Army's Devidatta Batallion and the National Trust for Nature Conservation-Bardia Conservation Program (NTNC-BCP) staff was immediately moved to the tiger kill location.
A technical team of NTNC-BCP with tranquilizer-loaded dart guns then set up the darting mission with shooters perched on trees on the lookout for the tiger’s return to the kill site. Mahout Chaudhary's dead body had been left in the kill spot since tigers are known to eventually return to the kill site. The tiger was back at the site around 19:00 hrs. and instantly darted. Having made the darting operation in the dark, it took more than 45 minutes to find the intoxicated tiger. The tiger had not moved too far and was found lying near the darting site. The rescue team’s veterinary doctor observed the tiger’s health condition, administering necessary medication, after which the tiger was transported to the BNP headquarter in a cage, from where it was scheduled to be moved to the Kathmandu's Central Zoo. Initial observation of the male tiger indicate its age as being about 10 years and is carrying some injuries.
Recently there have been a high number of tiger attacks on humans in Bardia. Only in this fiscal year, problem tigers in Bardia have killed 10 people—five in Khata corridor, three cases inside the national park, and two cases in the buffer zone forest. Fatalities aside, more than half a dozen persons have had to undergo treatment from tiger attack injuries. In response to minimizing the risk of tiger attacks on humans, NTNC has captured four problem tigers (all males) at the request of the government. With the latest incident, NTNC hopes that all of the problem tigers will be captured and future terror by tigers on people will abate.
With the admission of this tiger, there are now five tigers presently at the Central Zoo. All of them have been problem-causing tigers at various times. In spite of NTNC-Central Zoo's rescue and rehabilitation capacity, and in light of its space limitations, the Hon. Minister Prem Ale today pointed to his ministry's priority for establishing provincial-level zoo facilities that are able to deal with urgent wildlife crisis situations such as these. The minister said "I expect NTNC to take lead in this area which will be crucial for ensuring that conservation and local communities continue to co-exist in harmony."
Why are tiger attack cases seen increasing?
- Tigers prefer undisturbed forests. Records from the national park show that since the COVID-19 lockdown in March-end last year, the number of people entering forests have increased by 300 percent. Increase in the number of tiger attacks is thus directly associated with increased human activities inside forests. To reduce the frequency of tiger attacks, people should refrain from entering the core park areas, which are wild tiger territories. People entering inside forests should take extra precautions.
- Tigers moving outside core park areas is potentially also due to increased territorial fighting between tigers. Consequently territorially displaced and/or injured tigers are known to venture outside their core habitats to find prey. This often motivates them to come nearer human settlements, thus exacerbating conflict situations.
NTNC's response measures for mitigating tiger-human conflict cases are focused on:
- Reducing human disturbances inside the core areas of the park and wildlife corridors.
- Identifying and handling problem tigers immediately.
- Continuous monitoring of tigers that are using the habitats next to human settlements.
- Promoting alternate livelihoods and income opportunities that help reduce local community's forest dependency.