VIDEO: In the Field With Rhododendrons, Bhutanese Rangers and Wild Tigers

Only about 80 tigers survive in the small mountainous country of Bhutan, one of the last 13 countries were wild tigers still roam. Unfortunately, forest rangers in the area are too few and lack the training and equipment they need to effectively combat the onslaught of tiger poaching in the region.

Bhutanese officials have requested assistance from the International Fund for Animal Welfare with training and equipping front-line forest department staff to help in protecting their tigers from wildlife crime. This kind of capacity-building work is one of the key areas in their national tiger conservation plan as well as the Global Tiger Recovery Programme adopted at the tiger summit last November.

Morning comes early to Jigme Dorji National Park in Bhutan. When we went to bed the previous evening it had been hard to tell what the surrounding mountains looked like because it had been overcast when we arrived in the park. The morning air sparkled and there was fresh snow in the surrounding mountains which brought to life the description of how difficult a climb the forest rangers had every time they left this station for their base camps.

We were presented with a simple breakfast outside whilst the sounds of horns and chanting drifted in from higher up the mountain side. I remembered that the Buddhist monks had gathered for a blessing of the rangers. I noticed that there were quite a few dogs running around and asked if they were pets of the rangers or villagers and was told that they just like to hang around the area and the fact that no dogs were missing this morning meant that no leopards had come into the area last night!

We had an opportunity to meet the monks, receive their blessing and then listen to the Director of the national park once again ask us to do all that we could to find equipment for the rangers. With the mountains forming the dramatic backdrop to the scene it was not hard to understand why the rangers were desperate for warm clothing and sleeping bags. Today, though, they were enjoying the sunny day and the monks blessing. It would be another ten days before they headed up those mountains to their base camps and beyond for patrolling.

Our guide then suggested we take a short walk along a ridge known to be hunting grounds for local tigers and leopards. I have learned since being in Bhutan that when a Bhutanese tells you it is a short walk you can pretty much triple the time he quoted to finish the walk. True to form, we set out on a walk along a ridge that began to drop sharply and I began to wonder what would be the greater problem, avoiding becoming prey to a tiger or simply walking back up that ridge!

The Himalayas are home to the wild Rhododendron plant and we were soon walking through Rhododendron trees along the ridge! When we came upon a spot where three trails merged, we stopped to look for signs of tigers and were rewarded with the the claw marks of a large tiger scratched into the bark of a rhododendron. The size of the claw marks indicated a very large tiger and I again had visions of running up that ridge and suggested that perhaps it was time to head back. Normally, I am in meetings advocating to save tigers but I took this occasion to advocate getting back to the safety of the car.

As we walked back along the ridge to the road we encountered villagers who, indeed, reported having seen fresh tiger tracks in the area and they expressed concern about their livestock which they let graze unattended in the forest. Human wildlife conflict problems were also becoming an issue to address in Bhutan. Villagers live within the boundaries of the national parks in Bhutan and so combating poachers is not the only problem confronting forest rangers. They also needed help in dealing with community members who were sympathetic to saving the tiger but also concerned about saving their own livestock. Late in the day we discussed the possibility of expanding our Animal Action Week work to the schools of Bhutan so that we can make the children aware of possible solutions and they can convince their parents.

IFAW's first training course for the front line rangers is planned for July of this year. We have lot's of work to do in the meantime and first and foremost in my mind is how to find funding to get the rangers the equipment they need to stay warm and dry. If we can't help the rangers, we can't help the tigers.

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Click here to read Azzedine's original post from his trip to Bhutan.

Comments: 14

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Tigers living at up to 4000m-very unique.
Let the locals realize that tourists will happily pay to see these magnificent animals. This would bring much needed funds into the local community.
Additionally the poachers should be dealt with very harshly.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I agree 100%

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I would like to send equipment but am unsure of where to send it to...

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Could not have put it better myself...... Perhaps some many think you a little OTT but wtf these beautiful animals need people to speak out honestly and the governments need to know that the world is watching and have very serious views on these vile poachers.javascript: postComment(1);

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Please provide us with details as to how we can help equip these people. Thanks.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I agree with you, Julia. I think that these measures might go a long way toward catching and punishing those that are poaching these EXTREMELY endangered animals. I also have to admit that I can sympathize with the views of "Greek for Animals". It is so hard not to have those feelings about those monsters who would kill these magnificent creatures, and almost always for money.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

The BBC series of programmes "Lost Land of the Tigers" was based in Bhutan, and held out the hope that Bhutan could become the base of a tiger preservation plan, using the area as a corridor where tigers could move freely. They thought that the native people were sympathetic to the plight of these magnificent animals.

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

Tigers are Beautiful creatures I admire these people who try stop the poaches they are great people

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

I agree, a touch of capital punishment or life prison sentence should be imposed on those poaching these magnificent and endangered animals. How about a large reward offered to
any local people who notice or hear about poachers entering the Park . ?

 
Anonymous
3 years ago

tHESE MAGNIFICENT ANIMALS MUST BE SAVED AND ALLOWED TO LIVE IN THEIR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT FREE FROM THE THREAT OF EXTINCTION BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.

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