Washington: Tigers in and around a world-renowned park in Nepal are taking the night shift to better coexist with their human neighbours, a new study has revealed.
The revelation that tigers and people are sharing exactly the same space – such as the same roads and trails – of Chitwan National Park flies in the face of long-held convictions in conservation circles.
Conventional conservation wisdom is that tigers need lots of people-free space, which often leads to people being relocated or their access to resources compromised to make way for tigers.
It also underscores how successful conservation efforts need sciences that takes into account both nature and humans.
“As our planet becomes more crowded, we need to find creative solutions that consider both human and natural systems,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, who with PhD student Neil Carter and three Nepalese scholars wrote a paper about their work.
“Sustainability can be achieved if we have a good understanding of the complicated connections between both worlds. We`ve found something very interesting is happening in Nepal that holds promise for both humans and nature to thrive,” noted Liu, who is the director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University, where Carter studies.
Carter spent two seasons setting motion-detecting camera traps for tigers, their prey and people who walk the roads and trails of Chitwan, both in and around the park.
Chitwan, nestled in a valley of the Himalayas, is home to about 121 tigers. People live on the park`s borders, but rely on the forests for ecosystem services such as wood and grasses. They venture in on dirt roads and narrow footpaths to be ``snared`` on Carter`s digital memory cards. The roads also are used by military patrols to thwart would-be poachers.
Carter`s analyses of the thousands of images show that people and tigers are walking the same paths, albeit at different times. Tigers typically move around at all times of the day and night, monitoring their territory, mating and hunting.
But in the study area, Carter and his colleagues discovered that the tigers had become creatures of the night. The camera`s infrared lights document a pronounced shift toward nocturnal activity.
People in Nepal generally avoid the forests at night. Essentially, quitting time for people signals starting time for Chitwan`s tigers. So far, it appears tiger population numbers are holding steady despite an increase in human population size.
Their study was published in this week`s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).