All is not well yet for the big cats

  • world tiger day
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jul 30, 2016-

Members of tiger conservation community may be hailing a rise in tiger numbers, but all is not well for the big cats in Nepal, say conservationists, arguing that they continue to face challenges from “unplanned and unscientific” development projects inside protected areas and adjoining buffer zones. 

Proposed development works including highways and suspension bridges coupled with continued encroachment of protected areas pose serious threats to the existing tiger habitats in the country, said Uday Chandra Thakur, secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC). 

“As we celebrate the Global Tiger Day on a positive note with a rise in tiger numbers in the country, uncertainty looms over the sustainability of tiger conservation,” he said. “The big question is how we can a strike a fine balance between development and conservation.” 

Increasing number of development projects in the Chitwan National Park (CNP) and adjoining buffer zones, which serve as one of the most important tiger habitats in the country, have become a major cause for concern of late. There are at least seven different development projects ranging from construction of trail suspension bridge to electric railway and roads. 

“This is likely to have a huge impact on tiger habitats, said Maheshwar Dhakal, deputy director general of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC). 

At present, construction of the postal highway that passes through the CNP has been stopped. 

The trail suspension bridge is under construction while the east-west railway project that passes through the core area of Chitwan has been modified and moved to a 

buffer zone area. 

Other proposed construction projects include road construction along the Thori-Kerung, Tribeni-Muktinath and Madi-Triveni section in and around Chitwan.

MoFSC officials claimed that the ministry has very little or no say in planning and approving the projects targeted inside the forest and protected areas. 

“We are not engaged in the initial phase of project development. Hence the alternatives that could cause minimal damage to the environment are not discussed as required,” said Thakur.  

Nepal is home to 198 tigers with the CNP having highest number at 120. Nepal has committed to doubling the tiger populations to 250 by 2022. Between January 2015 and February 2016, the country recorded more cases of tiger poaching and seizures of tiger parts in recent decades. 

Marking the Global Tiger Day, 45 non-governmental organisations from across the globe have called for stepping up measures to curb tiger poaching and close tiger farms to boost efforts against the black-market trade in animal parts. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there remained 200 tiger farms in Asia, mostly in China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. The tiger population in farms is about 8,000, more than the estimated 3,900 living in the wild, according to the conservation group. 

Published: 30-07-2016 10:16

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