Posted on Category:Wild Animal

Nepal Tiger Conflicts Large Prey May Be Feeding

Until just a few months ago, residents of Geruwa, a rural community in western Nepal, rushed to their homes before dark and locked themselves in the house. Only in this way were they able to protect themselves and their livestock from the tigers that roamed in this area on the outskirts of the Bardiya National Park, which is home to a third of Nepal’s endangered Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris).

“These few months have been particularly difficult for us, as the tigers have striked both livestock and humans,” said Dharma Prakash Tharu, a spokesman for the community. Although the local authorities do not have official data on the number of lost cattle, residents claim that almost all households have lost some of their animals to the tigers.

And it’s not just about livestock: over the past five years, more than two dozen people have been finished by tigers in and around the National Park.

While the world community applauds Nepal’s success in having almost tripled its tiger population in 12 years, the human-tiger conflict has become one of the biggest challenges for the conservation of big cats, with researchers studying the causes and possible solutions.

One factor that has attracted attention is the lack of “peak prey” for these peak predators in Bardiya National Park, home to 125 of Nepal’s 355 tigers.

“Based on the available data, we can say that Bardiya tigers hunt small and medium-sized prey such as spotted deer [axis of the axis] and wild boars [Sus scrofa],” says ecologist Jhamak Bahadur Karki, who addressed the topic at the recently completed national tiger workshop in Bardiya.

Although these prey provide food for the tigers, the “Energy Maximizing” cats have to hunt several of these small animals to fill their stomachs, which requires a lot of walking and energy expenditure. “On the other hand, if a tiger finishs large and medium-sized prey such as Sambar, Nilgai, wild buffalo or Gaur, it has to finish less to get the same level of energy and food,” explains Karki. But the Nile antelope (Boselaphus tragocamelus), the Wild Water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) and the wild Gaur cattle (Bos gaurus) are completely absent from Bardiya, while the Sambar deer (Rusa unicolor) is present only in small numbers in the park.

Because large and medium-sized prey are difficult to find, tigers consider buffaloes and domesticated cattle as better food sources for which they do not need to spend a lot of energy, conservationists say. And this leads to conflicts with people.

This problem was also highlighted in the report “status of tigers and prey in Nepal 2022” commissioned by the government.”He says that although prey density in general (the availability of prey in a given area) has increased in the tiger habitats of the country, the density, especially of large prey species, remains low. In Bardiya, the density of prey increased from 78 to 90 animals per square kilometer between 2018 and 2022, but the Biomass of these prey may not be sufficient for tigers, according to the researchers.

“Tiger is a predator at the top and prefers larger prey. With a lower density of large prey, tigers switch to smaller prey,” the report said. “Therefore, focusing on increasing the density of large prey should be a strategy to keep tigers at higher densities.”

Another study shows that large-scale prey species (Sambar, Gaur and Nilgai) contributed to more than 50% of the Biomass consumed by tigers in Parsa National Park, in central Nepal, where the three herbivorous species are found. The researchers, who analyzed fecal samples from tigers in and around the National Park, found no traces of livestock in the tigers’ diet. This suggests a possible connection between strikes on livestock and the availability of large prey.

Karki says he doesn’t think it’s possible to move Nilgai to Bardiya, as they prefer the degraded grassland species found in areas like Parsa. “I think with the swamp deer [Rucervus duvaucelii], we also need to displace the water buffaloes and the Gaurens,” he says.

Historically, it is believed that the large-scale prey of the tiger was scattered along the landscape of the Terai Arc, which stretches across the border region between Nepal and India. But their population there has decreased over time, limiting themselves to certain fragmented habitats, according to conservationists.

The Arna conservation action plan (2020-2024) and the Gaur conservation action plan (2020-2024) identify the movement of wild water buffalo and Gaur to Bardiya as a way to diversify the populations there. However, with the exception of the large one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), wildlife resettlement efforts have largely failed to create alternative viable populations for the species in Nepal. The resettlements of swamp deer in Bardiya and wild buffalo in Chitwan National Park, for example, have had limited success.

“I don’t think we can move [the buffaloes] to Bardiya,” says Rabin Kadariya, who until recently headed the Bardiya office of the semi-governmental organization National Trust for Nature Conservation. “We don’t have enough marshes in Bardiya for water buffaloes. But yes, we need bigger prey for the tigers in Bardiya.”

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