Two of Bhutan’s national parks this month were awarded Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS) accreditation in recognition of their success in increasing the population of the endangered wild tigers.
The Royal Manas National Park and Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, in central and southern Bhutan, respectively, received CA|TS certification on 3 December—meeting a strict set of criteria that demonstrate that the two parks have attained the highest global operational standards in tiger conservation.
CA|TS is an integral part of Tx2—an initiative involving 13 countries, including Bhutan, that aims to double the global population of wild tigers by 2022 (the Year of the Tiger) from 2010 levels to more than 6,000 individuals.
There are currently 13 tiger range countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, studies have shown that despite recent success in improving tiger numbers, declines in protected areas remain a major risk—in particular due to habitat loss and the poaching of tigers for bush meat, trophies, traditional medicines, and other illegal activities.
Lobzang Dorji, first chair of the CA|TS council and director of Bhutan’s forestry department, described the accreditation as a milestone in Bhutan’s conservation journey. He was qupted by Kuensel as saying “Being mindful of the significance of area outside protected areas for tiger conservation, Bhutan will soon implement CA|TS in three territorial forest divisions, which are important tiger habitats.”
In 2015, Bhutan’s wild tiger population was estimated at 103 individuals. The Royal Manas National Park, the oldest park in the country, reportedly recorded 64 tigers to date through camera trap surveys, with about 26 sightings believed to be trans-border in nature.
According to the WWF Bhutan, 12 transboundary tigers were recorded in the Transboundary Manas Conservation Area in 2015, up from just four in 2011, due in large part to trans-boundary cooperation with India, and anti-poaching and habitat conservation awareness initiatives among farmers. Tiger conservation is also considered a barometer for the health of the larger ecosystem as a healthy tiger population helps to keep a natural check on herbivore numbers. According to National Tiger Center program director Tshering Tempa, Bhutan’s extensive forest cover could comfortably support 200–250 tigers.