Royal Bengal Tigers


Introduction

The tiger is one of the world’s largest carnivores and can weigh over 300 kg and reach up to 3.3 metres. Once ranging widely across Asia, from the eastern coast of Russia to the Caspian Sea in the west, the majestic tiger is now an endangered species. It has disappeared from central and south west Asia, from Java and Bali in Indonesia and from large areas of south east and eastern Asia. It is estimated that there has been as much as a 50 per cent decline in the world’s tiger population over the last three decades, with less than 4000 individuals currently in the wild.

Where they can be found

Tigers are currently found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia and Thailand. There are five extent sub-species of tigers in the wild today. The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) occurs only in captivities. The Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is the most numerous (approximately 2,500 individuals in the world) of all the extent sub-species and inhabits Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal. The Royal Bengal tigers mainly inhabit the tropical forests of the Indian sub-continent, but in Bhutan, they have been recorded up to 4,500 meters above sea level.

Why they are important

As a top predator, tigers play an important role in maintaining a diverse and healthy forest ecosystem within their habitat landscapes. As the apex of their food chain, tigers keep wild ungulate populations under control which upholds the balance of vegetation growth and herbivores. In many countries, including Bhutan, tigers hold a strong cultural significance. The tiger reserves also act as a storehouse for carbons as large tract of forests are protected for tigers.

How they are threatened

Habitat loss, prey depletion, poaching and human-wildlife conflicts are the major causes of population decline of tigers in the wild. As they need large areas to support viable populations, the rapid development and growing population of Asia poses a huge threat to their survival. Pressure from commercial logging, and the expansion of agriculture and human settlements into forest landscapes contribute to the loss of tiger habitats and human-wildlife conflict. Infrastructure development including fences, roads and dams can further pose barriers to their movement and restrict their ability to find suitable habitat and food. Another emerging threat is climate change, which may result in changes to the physical environment, including geographical and altitudinal range shifts in habitat extent, and impact the seasonality and rates of climate-related hazards including heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, cyclones and floods which may adversely affect tigers and their habitats. Human response to climate change may also contribute to human wildlife conflicts.

How Vanishing Treasures is addressing the problem

In Bhutan, Vanishing Treasures is working to enhance the understanding of climate change impacts on the Bengal Tiger and its habitats, and to address knowledge gaps. The programme aims to integrate climate change knowledge into tiger habitat management and promote climate-smart conservation practices. The programme will further support communities living in close proximity to tiger habitats by supporting ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) on the ground to reduce impact and further pressure on the Tiger and their habitats.