Nepal’s key habitat could lose 39% of its tigers in 20 years, study says

Nepal’s key habitat could lose 39% of its tigers in 20 years, study says

KATHMANDU — Roads that run close to an important national park in Nepal’s southern plains could result in an increased rate of roadkill that would cut the park’s population of adult tigers by nearly two-fifths over two decades, a new study shows.

The study forecasts that 46 Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) could be killed on the roads near Chitwan National Park, bringing the adult population down from 133 at present to 81 in 20 years. Another 30 tigers could be killed in the same period if a proposed railway line in the area is built, according to the study, which modeled its projections using tiger movement data collected in Chitwan since the 1970s.

“The mortality associated with increased traffic volumes and expansions of the roads and railway would have cascading negative consequences on population viability in the long term,” study lead author Neil Carter, from the University of Michigan, told Mongabay.

As the tiger population in Chitwan is relatively small compared to those in other habitats across the Indian subcontinent, this reduction of 39% could make them more vulnerable to diseases or inbreeding, Carter said. That would increase their risk of going locally extinction.

A century ago, an estimated 100,000 wild tigers roamed the grasslands across Asia. But by early 2000s, their number plummeted by 95%, largely due to poaching and habitat loss and fragmentation. During this time, three subspecies — the Java, Bali and Caspian tigers — went extinct.

Lead Image: A Bengal tiger sits on a road in neighboring India. Image by Hawkclicks via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

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