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Sub-tropical Royal Bengal Tigers move above 3000m
Bengal tiger
Sub-tropical Royal Bengal Tiger
Bhutan could be the first country in the world to record a credible account of the movement of the Royal Bengal Tigers from their sub-tropical habitat to elevation as high as the tree line area, according to the findings of the Nature Conservation Division (NCD) of the Ministry of Agriculture.

The findings could contradict many Tiger experts around the world who believed that the Royal Bengal Tigers (panthera tigris tigris) found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal besides Bhutan, moved mainly in tropical and sub-tropical regions at sea level to sometimes as high as 2600 metres above sea level but never beyond.

This week a NCD survey team clinched a new fact that the tigers moved beyond 3,000 metres. Remains of two horses, one cow and two mithun breed cows were found near a ridge between Thimphu dzongkhag and Punakha dzongkhag, three hours walk above Dodeyna which is about 15 kilometres from the Thimphu town, whose evidences showed that the kill was made by the Royal Bengal Tigers. The actual site showed 3,400 metres above sea level.

According to NCD's joint director, Dr. Sangay Wangchuk, who was also part of the survey team, the nature of the kill especially the large canine mark on the livestock's necks and pug mark on the earth were evident of the tiger's attack. The NCD team also concluded that four tigers- a male and a female with two cubs- lived in the area.

"This is the first time in Bhutan where solid evidences has been collected of the movement of tigers above 3,000 metres," Dr. Sangay Wangchuk said.

The finding also indicated for the first time the use of the biological corridor by tigers to move from one park to another, he said.

Bhutan has about 10 biological corridors established chiefly for the movement of tigers which covers nine percent of the country's area and which connects wildlife parks from Manas to the Jigme Dorji National Park covering another 26 percent of the country.

The presence of tigers was, however, reportedly sighted by the Bhutanese farmers in the past in places above 4,000 metres. A tiger was even caught by a camera at 2,900 metres in Thrumshingla National Park few years back. Studies pointed out that the total number of tigers found in Bhutan was between 115 to 150 and was distributed from west to east- Jigme Dorji National Park to Bumdeling Wild Life Sanctuary via Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and Thrumshingla National Park. The tigers were also found in Manas and Sarpang in the south.

Meanwhile, NCD officials said that the farmers who lost their livestock to tigers in Dodeyna would be compensated- Nu. 5,500 each for the two mithun breed cows, Nu. 6,000 each for the two horses, and Nu. 5,000 for the cow. According to NCD a Tiger Conservation Fund was established last year to compensate farmers who lost their livestock to tigers, leopard, snow leopards and bears, the four of which were protected by Bhutan's Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995. Killing tigers entailed heavy legal prices in Bhutan.

With the disbursement of the money to Dodeyna farmers, the government would have compensated 181 farmers with payment of Nu. 1.2 million from the Tiger Conservation Fund. Studies pointed out that Bhutanese farmers lost substantial number of livestock to tigers every year. NCD recorded 218 livestock that were killed by tigers between 1999 and 2001.

Contributed by Kencho Wangdi, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper
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