February 17, 2018

The National Tiger Center (NTC) based in Gelephu under the Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests has successfully radio-collared a three-year old female tiger weighing 110 kilograms (kg) on February 09, 2018, in Royal Manas National Park (RMNP).

This is the first time a tiger has been radio-collared by a team of Bhutanese biologists and foresters led by Dr. Tshering Tempa, officials from NTC along with forest officials from RMNP, Nature Conservation Division (NCD), and Sarpang Forest Divison.

The tiger collaring team has been in the forests of RMNP looking for tiger signs and monitoring their movements for almost a month. “We have imported trapping kits from the United State of America (USA) and used humane ways of snaring the tiger,” said Dr. Tempa. “We tested with our bare hands to confirm that the traps would not injure the cat,” he added. “As a tiger biologist, I am trained and we had conducted several drills to prepare ourselves.” The whole collaring process lasted about 45 minutes and the tiger was released back into the wilderness without any injuries. “We were a little nervous, but we are happy that everything went according to our plan,” said Dr. Tempa with a sigh of relief.

To mark the auspicious milestone in tiger conversation in Bhutan, the tiger was named Tendrel Zangmo. Tendrel now sends her location every hour through the Global Positioning System (GPS) collar. This will be crucial to understand their movement pattern, identifying key corridors, and mitigating human-tiger conflicts. Bhutan is unique in that its tiger habitat is contiguous across the whole country and extends from lowland subtropical jungles all the way to subalpine forests. The highest altitude for tiger in the world was recorded in Wangchuck Centennial National Park at 4,400 masl (meters above sea level). Dr. Tempa, who heads the National Tiger Center, said that not much is known about the tigers in mountains in the tiger world and we will be a pioneer in providing this critical information to tiger science. This is the real break-through and the beginning of a new era of tiger conservation and monitoring in Bhutan. What is more satisfying is that it is a purely Bhutanese team that carried out the whole operation.

The tiger is an apex predator and an umbrella species, which means ensuring their survival allows many species to live and flourish in its large shared habitat. However, threats to these beautiful cats still exist in the form of killing for profit or in retaliation, destruction of habitat for industries or subsistence. A thriving illicit global trade has drastically reduced tiger populations across its range. Today, fewer than 3,800 tigers exist in the wild, spread across 13 countries in Asia and the Russian Far East.

This collaring project is funded by the Bhutan Foundation as part of a long-term project to conserve Bhutan’s mountain tigers.