Helping Bhutan Save the Wild Tiger
Today found me boarding a plane from India to Bhutan, a remote, mountain kingdom sandwiched between India and China. Bhutan is probably the only country in the world that measures Gross National Happiness in addition to any economic measurements.
From an animal welfare perspective, that is really good news for animals in Bhutan and for people around the world who support our work because a very important part of Gross National Happiness is protecting nature and animals.
I was going to Bhutan to introduce the International Fund Animal Welfare and its work to protect tigers. Little did I know when I got on that plane that I would be flying by Mt. Everest and landing at an airstrip that could just barely accommodate the plane.
The rest of the day was spent climbing higher and higher back into the mountains until we reached an altitude of 4,000 meters or over 12,000 feet. All the way up we passed houses that had tigers painted all across the front of them and I knew then that this country was like nowhere else I had ever visited. It was also clear that the Dragon People of Bhutan, as they call themselves, had a long history of existing along side the tiger and that protecting them was already something that they wanted to do but perhaps only needed help in figuring how best to do it.
In the next few days, I know I am going to have many meetings about IFAWs contribution to the Global Tiger Initiative which has as its goal to double the number of tigers in the wild by the year 2022 but as I arrived at the national park in the north of the country I knew that our success in protecting the tiger in this region was going to rely on the ability of a number of incredibly brave and fit rangers who patrolled the mountains.
As we gathered around a small wood stove in the ranger station I heard directly from the rangers that they were required to hike up to eight days, over a pass at 5,000 metres high, through snow, just to get to their base station!
I knew that we had to do everything we could to get these rangers the basic equipment that they needed to stay safe and healthy so that they could protect the tiger in the higher altitudes. They needed high altitude sleeping bags that would keep them warm; they needed boots that would keep their feet warm and protect them from frost bite; they needed warm coats that would keep the snow from slowing them down.
Basically, it was more than clear that these front line rangers are the ones who will keep poachers from killing tigers and that unless we could keep the rangers safe, we could not protect the tigers.
I am heading to bed now thinking about the incredible experience I have already had in this mountain kingdom. Tomorrow, Buddhist monks will be coming down from the surrounding mountains to gather to bless the rangers on their mission to protect wildlife. The rangers ask if the International Fund for Animal Welfare can lend its voice and expertise to help them in their mission? As the fire dies down and we get ready for bed, I hope the same thing.
For more information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to protect the last of the world’s remaining tigers, visit The International Fund for Animal Welfare home page.