The number of tigers in the Bardiya National Park (BNP) has surged dramatically since 2013, according to a new survey conducted by park officials.
Assistant Conservation Officer Ashok Kumar Bhandari claimed that the number of adult tigers in the park figured at around 70 now, with 13 cubs being observed during the survey.
The number of big cats in the park was estimated to be between 35 and 50 during the last tiger census held in 2013, Bhandari said. “We have found an increase in the number of tigers in the areas around the Karnali and Babai river banks,” he said.
Tiger sightings have become commonplace in the park and in the buffer zone in adjoining Neulapur, Bagnaha, Dhodhari, Suryapatuwa and Khata wildlife corridors, according to local people. “Tigers could be observed on a daily basis at Khata corridor and Shiva community forest,” said Krishna Pariyar of Dhodari-9.
The BNP officials claimed a significant number of leopards have also been spotted in the community forest areas.
Meanwhile, the District Forest Office said that they had found three big cats dead in the buffer zones over the past six months. While two are believed to have died following a brawl, one died of natural causes.
The tiger census is held every four years at the national parks. While the count is underway at the neighbouring Banke National Park, tiger count at the BNP is slated for 2016.
The area has witnessed a surge in the number of tourists. The tourism entrepreneurs attribute it to the photograph of a tigress with her four cubs taken by an American photographer, who had visited the park with famous Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio four years ago.
The number of domestic tourists has increased by two fold and that of foreigners has rised by 60 percent compared to last year, said tourism entrepreneur Ramji Thapa.
The Babai valley and Karnali river bank of the BNP, which spreads over 968 square kilometres, are regarded as suitable habitats for the big cats. But poaching remains a big challenge. An injured stripped tiger named Namo Buddha, which was transferred to Babai from Chitwan National Park (CNP) three years ago, was poached, while another tiger also transferred from the CNP last year is out of contact now.