NEW DELHI: India, Nepal and Bhutan are set to start a joint exercise for mapping of tigers and their habitats in high altitude ranges as none of the Census has so far done a comprehensive assessment of the presence of big cats at an altitude above 10,000-feet. The process is likely to be carried under the umbrella of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
The idea behind the joint exercise by the three nations was to study the habitat in upper reaches having difficult terrain. “The major threats to big cats in high altitude regions in these three countries are habitat loss and dwindling prey base due to poaching among others. There is an urgent need to do mapping of their habitats and assess the situation,” said a senior Union Environment Ministry official, on condition of anonymity.
As per Tiger Census 2014, India has a tiger population of 2,226. Its presence has also been recently discovered at 10,700 feet altitude in Askot Landscape of Uttarakhand.
Owing to its presence, Bhutan is one of the 10 priority hotspots for tiger conservation. It has a global priority because the tiger population there is thought to be the uppermost probability of persistence. As per the National Survey Report 2013, there are 103 tigers in Bhutan, over an altitudinal gradient ranging from altitude 300-feet in south to as high as 13,000-feet in north.
The national-level tiger Census started in Nepal in 1995 and there is a rising trend since then. After the 5th Census, the population stands at 198, and now India is helping the nation to conduct the latest Census. “Many tigers in these high altitude areas are out of protected areas and these need to be mapped with habitat defined to protect them,” the official added.