‘Gender imbalance’ hinders tiger population growth in Shuklaphanta
By Abinash Chaudhari
Dhangadhi, Mar. 9: Increasing tiger population is proving quite a challenge in Shuklaphanta, the smallest national park of Nepal.
While the entire country will have more than double tiger population by 2022, Shuklaphanta’s tiger population may actually go down. This is because the park contains more male tigers than female ones.
Shuklaphanta had a total of eight Royal Bengal tigers when Nepal officially pledged to double its tiger population to 250 by 2022 during an international conference held in Petersburg of Russia. While the tiger population increased to 16 in Shuklaphanta, meeting the target five years ago, the population has remained stable for four years since 2014.
Laxman Paudel, conservation officer at the park, said, “The tiger population cannot increase in this park because of the prevailing gender imbalance.”
He informed that the number of female tigers needs to be greater than that of male ones for effective reproduction which is not the case in Shuklaphanta National Park. “Therefore, the tiger population may actually decline by half here,” he added.
As per the 2018 census, nine out of the 16 tigers in Shuklaphanta are males while only six are females.
Poudel informed that one male tiger needs one to three female tigers for mating. When this is not present, the males may kill or injure each other in fights, or they may kill the cubs of the females. “This makes it hard to increase the overall tiger population in this park,” he said.
The tigers also face a problem of habitat. “Although one-third of the park area is grassland, we have not been able to manage it properly,” Poudel admitted. “For this, we need an increased investment.”
Poudel stated that the park has been able to control illegal poaching. He informed that the park was protected by the army and was continuously monitored through various spy cameras.
Spread over an area of 205 square km., the Shuklaphanta National Park is home to not just tigers but also swamp deer, one-horned rhinoceros and wild elephants.
The black buck population at Hirapur grassland of Shuklaphanta National Park has increased. The park had initially brought 40 black bucks from Bardiya National Park. The number has now gone up to 74.