Tigers have been known to live in the Himalayan foothills of Bhutan, but the exact number of them living there is unknown. Also, there is not much known about their behavior in the region. Several stories from villagers about tigers at much higher altitudes in the rugged mountains, even at 13,000 feet, caught the attention of BBC researchers.
They decided to investigate the claims and traveled to Bhutan with video equipment and automated camera traps which they placed in wild mountainous areas at over 9,000 and 13,000 feet. They left the cameras to photograph whatever animals passed in front of them for several months. When they returned to see what they had photographed, they were stunned to see the images of two wild tigers. One was a male and the other a female which suggests they may actually have staked out a high altitude territory for the purpose of breeding.
A BBC producer, Johnny Keeling, who helped with the project said, “The significance of finding tigers living so high in Bhutan is that it means that huge areas of Himalayas, that people didn’t think were natural places for tigers to live, can now be included in the tiger corridor.”
The corridor he was referring to is a concept promoted by the conservation organization Panthera. It is a continuous strip of wild land 2,000 kilometers long through Nepal, India, Bhutan and Myanmar which would connect all natural tiger habitats. The wild corridor would allow tigers to move safely into areas where they can find food and water. It would also allow them to interbreed naturally thereby maintaining genetic diversity which is critical to their health and survival. Mr. Keeling also noted Bhutan might one day be sort of a wild tiger nursery where wild tigers are safe to breed, and mature. Then they could return to forests at lower altitudes.
It appears the two wild tigers might have taken a head for the mountains approach to find refuge from poachers and human encroachment into wild lands at lower levels. BBC wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan said, “The fact they can live here is just so important, for tigers in the wild, for their future.”
Image Credit: Kabir Bakie