Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tigers Discovered at High Elevations in Bhutan

Bengal tiger

A BBC camera crew had recently made an astonishing discovery high up in the foothills of Bhutan: Bengal tigers. The crew had set up cameras at a range of 4100 meters above sea level during a three months' period, hoping they would find and film some of the most fascinating wildlife calling Bhutan home. Among the animals the crew filmed included monkeys, leopards, Himalayan black bears, and some highly endangered and rare species like the musk deer and the red panda. But what really amazed the crew were tigers. Their footage showed a male tiger marking his territory and a lactating female, which suggested that there was a breeding population.

With the discovery of tigers making home in Bhutan's majestic alpine foothills, the crew are safeguarding the spot where they captured the animals on film. This has also given hope to conservationists and zoologists that more tigers may be found in the country. According to Michael Baltzer, head of the World Wildlife Fund's Tiger Network Initiative, Bhutan has done an outstanding job in conserving its environment and this particular tiger habitat could become a hotspot for the species' repopulation. Also, tiger expert Dr. Alan Rabinowitz who came with the crew, will be favoring the creation of protected land areas joining isolated tiger populations known as "tiger corridors." However, his first step will be to identify and protect the existing groups of tigers.

I'm also amazed to find that tigers have been seen and filmed at such high elevations in the Himalaya region. As it turns out, these majestic cats are sharing their habitat with another rare and beautiful resident of such harmonious land: the snow leopard. This news is kind of a throwback to what I had learned about the Bengal tiger in terms of its range. The animal inhabits nearly every corner of the Indian Subcontinent, including Bhutan. The only likely place in Bhutan where it has been seen is Manas National Park along the India-Bhutan border. However, in a PBS television program series called The Living Edens, one of the episodes which was about Bhutan's wildlife featured the tiger and showed that it had made tracks as high as 10,000 feet in the Himalayas. Now, it seems like that hypothesis has been proven to be somewhat true.

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