What better way to celebrate World Tiger Day than with news of brand new wild tiger cubs, born in Nepal - an area where, until recently, there had been no sign of tiger breeding for a decade, and where the tiger population had been in long-term decline.
Let’s start this story at the beginning and introduce Tiger F-07.
F-07 was first recorded as a young tiger back in 2015, on the edge of Chitwan National Park, Nepal – a tiger stronghold in the region. Chitwan National Park is a relatively safe place for tigers, supporting the largest tiger population in the landscape; but it was getting full. After all there are only so many tigers that can live in one forest. So F-07 was on the look-out for a new home, she was in luck!
In 2014, ZSL, the Government of Nepal and our partners the National Trust for Nature Conservation and Panthera initiated a programme of conservation work to support tiger recovery across the Transboundary Terai Arc Landscape. (In 2017 this work became truly transboundary when work also began in the Indian part of the Terai Arc Landscape in partnership with the Government of India and the Wildlife Institute of India.)
We set out to make protected areas safe for tigers by working with protected area managers to improve their effectiveness and by working with local communities to gain their support for tiger conservation. Our first priority was the cluster of connected protected areas in the centre of the landscape: Chitwan National Park (where F-07 was first sighted), Valmiki Tiger Reserve, and Parsa Wildlife Reserve. In particular we focused on Parsa Wildlife Reserve, as the tiger population was low but there were lots of prey available and healthy forests, suggesting that tiger recovery was possible.
So, when F-07 was looking for a new home in 2015 and 2016 she found a well-protected and secure Parsa Wildlife Reserve waiting for her just next door to Chitwan National Park. And in 2016 the tiger camera trap survey carried out by our partnership found her there. Not only that but to our surprise she had given birth to two tiger cubs, the first seen in Parsa Wildlife Reserve for a decade! A clear sign that the conservation approach our partnership was taking works, and supports the recovery of the tiger population.
Since then we have continued our work supporting tiger recovery in 4 other crucially important protected areas. We’ve also continued to deepen it within Parsa Wildlife Reserve, with the fantastic outcome that the protected area was upgraded to Parsa National Park by the government in 2017, in recognition of the major conservation investments being made here. Most importantly of all we’ve seen a 40% increase in the tiger population in our four highest priority protected areas in Nepal (between 2013-2016).
This year’s camera trap survey, the full details of which are yet to be published, revealed brand new tiger cubs in Parsa National Park, showing the second consecutive year of tiger breeding here. This time the mother was Tiger F-02, who was photographed with a single cub. This indicates that Parsa National Park continues to be an excellent home for these magnificent cats, and that our partnership’s conservation approach works.