The uneasy dilemma of co-existing with the tigers



The village of Semji under Nubi Gewog, Trongsa which has 20 homes and is located around seven kilometers from the Trongsa municipality area, is dependent on agriculture and livestock. But the situation involving the tigers and humans has put their lives in jeopardy.

The community is located within the Wangchuck Centennial Park’s biological corridors which is a vital natural habitat of the tigers, a zone too close for comfort.

Nonetheless, the people’s quality of life significantly improved after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) introduced the Vanishing Treasures (VT) initiative to the community.

The VT program, a flagship of the UNEP, is committed to protecting iconic species that live in mountainous regions worldwide amid growing challenges related to climate change, according to Tashi Dhendup, Head of Bhutan Tiger Centre. The Luxembourgian government provides the funding.

The conservation efforts are aimed at protecting the Royal Bengal tiger, the primary tiger species in Bhutan.

Palden Lhendup, 47, shared his experience of living near the tigers’ territories. He claimed that when he went to the consultation meeting, they were told to coexist happily with the tigers.

“But hearing about the two victims who had to perish at the hands of the tiger was heartbreaking. And, there aren’t many bulls that plow our field,” Palden said.

During the program’s initial phase, the community was assisted in creating pastureland, which included electric fencing, an Eco trail, and a power tiller.

Yeshi La, 62, claimed that the lack of hunters was the cause of the conflict between humans and tigers.

However, he said that the presence of tigers had given the neighborhood access to electric fences and the creation of pasturelands to protect their field from invading wild animals. They greatly profited from this.

Yeshi La tells the story of how the people used to send their cattle into the forest to graze, but the precise number of livestock would not return in the evening. A person in the community even lost his life to tigers.

He however clarified that people could engage in all forms of farming, including raising cattle after the program was implemented in the community.

Nonetheless, according to Yeshi La, an electric fence is ineffective since wild animals are aware of the weak current and frequently manage to trespass into human territories.

He said, “We want chain-link fencing instead of electric fencing if the program’s second phase is offered.”

Understanding the interdependence of all living things and respecting the natural order are common communal values; people who live close to tiger habitats frequently have a strong sense of environmental appreciation and strive to protect it.

Locals, however, claimed that to live in harmony with tigers they had to use a variety of tactics. These entailed keeping cattle secure to avoid confrontations, avoiding combat with tigers, and disposing of waste responsibly to reduce the attraction of unwanted predators.

The communities put in a lot of effort to protect tigers and their natural environments. According to the locals, this could entail taking part in programs that monitor wildlife, lending support to initiatives that combat poaching, and promoting ecotourism as a viable means of making money while protecting the environment.

Living close to tigers and nature can provide unparalleled adventures and experiences. Palden said that they might have the opportunity to observe wildlife up close, explore pristine forests, and immerse themselves in the beauty of the natural world. However, it also comes with its challenges, such as the risk of encounters with dangerous wildlife and the need for constant vigilance.

“If tigers are essential to preserving the health and balance of ecosystems, the concerned stakeholders need to cage them all because it is enough for the local communities,” Palden stated.

However, the preservation of tigers is of utmost importance. According to Tashi Dhendup, tigers are the top predators in many Asian forest habitats, and they play a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of these ecosystems. Their existence is essential to maintaining the dynamics of ecosystems.

Tashi Dhendup added, “Urgent action is imperative given that there are only about 5,000 tigers left in the wild and that they are threatened with extinction. The extinction of tigers in the wild is a real threat unless prompt action and coordinated conservation efforts are taken.”

Climate change, however, presents more difficulties for the preservation of tigers. Ecosystems can be upset and tigers’ access to prey reduced by rising temperatures, changed precipitation patterns, and habitat degradation. Furthermore, tiger habitats can be destroyed and habitat fragmentation made worse by climate-related events like wildfires.

“We are implementing initiatives such as grassland and waterhole restoration within wildlife habitats to ensure sufficient food and water sources for wild animals,” Tashi Dhendup said.

In addition, he said that to help communities become more resilient to the effects of climate change in the coming days, they are helping farmers build well-fenced pasturelands and exploring ecotourism as a potential alternative source of income.

Farmers face difficulties due to the loss of grazing lands, which can exacerbate cases of depredation and cause conflicts when livestock encroach into forests.

Trongsa Dzongkhag, meanwhile, reported the highest number of occurrences of human-wildlife conflict (HWC), with Nubi Gewog alone accounting for 360 of the roughly 580 cases of livestock depredation by tigers that were reported between 2020 and 2024.

Related Posts

About The Author