A group of Myanmar scientists traveled to India over the weekend to learn how to boost the Southeast Asian country’s tiger population. The effort is part of a global commitment to double the world’s tiger population by 2022.
Myanmar has the world’s largest single tiger habitat, but it is very sparsely populated. The Hukawng Valley in Kachin State stretches across over 7,700 square miles, but it is home to just 30 tigers. Tigers are threatened by poaching and habitat loss caused by deforestation.
The delegation, led by Wildlife Conservation Society tiger expert Hla Naing, met representatives of the Wildlife Institute of India and visited the Rajaji Tiger Reserve in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand to learn strategies for raising the density of the Hukawng Valley’s tiger population.
“There is a huge scope to increase the tiger population in Myanmar, as the country has the single largest tiger landscape in the world. We are learning a great deal about tiger conservation management planning, which we will enforce at home in the hope of great results in the future,” Hla Naing told the Times of India.
According to a 2014 census, India is home to 2,226 tigers, or around 60 percent of the world’s total population of 3,890. The country has raised its population from 1,141 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2010, to 2,226 in 2014.
Global Tiger Forum (GTF), an organization that coordinates international efforts to protect tigers, has agreed to assist Myanmar with its tiger conservation programs.
“A large part of Myanmar is marred by extremism, which is a major road block in tiger conservation plans. Still, there is a lot of area available to implement the tiger conservation management plan, which has been explained by WII scientists and now shown on the ground in Rajaji to the delegation. The plan includes ways and means to protect the tiger habitat and capacity building of staff with infrastructure, communication, and weapons…to ensure tiger protection,” GTF secretary-general SP Yadav told the Times of India.
WII director VB Mathur said countries such as Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh have raised their tiger populations by implementing Indian-designed four-phase tiger population estimation programs, adding that Myanmar could benefit from the same methods.
Among the world’s 14 countries with wild tiger populations, numbers are only rising in Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, and Russia.
In Feb. 2016, villagers in Kayin State killed a wild tiger that tried to maul them while they were fishing.
In March 2017, camera traps set up by the Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative captured images of tigers and other rare animals in a largely unexplored forest in northern Kayin State. In Dec. 2017, the area was designated a wildlife sanctuary.
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