Saturday, 29 January 2011

Royal Bengal Tigers Get GPS Treatment, New Plans to Save the Endangered Species

BY Jenara Nerenberg
Fri Jan 28, 2011

Poachers beware--the World Wildlife Fund is armed with GPS tracking devices and far-reaching plans to help tigers re-produce.

Tigers in the Himalayas were a big issue this week, as a study co-authored by WWF scientists was published by Conservation Letters, detailing how the world's endangered tigers--many of which are in Nepal, Bhutan, and India--could triple with proper land management. News also came directly out of Nepal that it had successfully installed a GPS tracking kit on a Royal Bengal tiger and then transported the tiger from Chitwan National Park to Bardia National Park. The goal of the tracking is to place the tiger in a safer, breeding-friendly environment. (At right, WWF-US president and CEO Carter Roberts fits a GLOBALSTAR-3 satellite collar on the wild tiger 'Namobuddha' in preparation for translocation.)

"We have one of the highest densities of tigers. If our landscapes are properly managed, then our number of tigers can triple," WWF Nepal Conservation Program Director, Ghana Gurung, tells Fast Company. "We're committed to doubling our number of tigers by 2022."

The global tiger population has decreased from 100,000 to 3,200 in just a century, due to profit-seeking poachers as well as, in the case of Nepal, war-inflicted habitat destruction.

"Therefore, habitat management is essential," says Gurung. And the most important finding to come out of the study is that by preserving corridors that link breeding areas, tigers will more freely roam and breed.

If, however, they are confined to small areas--and areas that are disconnected from each other--the population begins to decrease.

Of course protecting those breeding grounds is also essential. Poachers throughout Asia hunt in search of high profits from sales to China for use in traditional Chinese medicine.

"We absolutely need to stop the bleeding, the poaching of tigers and their prey in core breeding areas," says co-author Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist at WWF. "But we need to go much further and secure larger tiger landscapes before it is too late."

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[Image: Carter Roberts, President and CEO, World Wildlife Fund, with Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation of Nepal, Deepak Bohara (standing, left), fitting a GPS plus GLOBALSTAR-3 satellite collar on the wild tiger 'Namobuddha' before it was translocated to Bardia National Park from Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Courtesy WWF/Min Bajracharya]

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