Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)

Employing Citizen Science to Monitor & Conserve Tigers in the Buffer Zones of Chitwan National Park, Nepal (2019 – $1,500)

Jon Johnston – Nepal Tiger Trust

The findings of many research projects regarding tiger conservation in the Chitwan region of Nepal, as well as many other tiger range countries, have suggested that involving local communities in tiger conservation and monitoring projects is a critical step in order for conservation efforts to be successful. Yet, very few tiger conservation projects have themselves incorporated this element. This project will establish the first citizen science network for tiger monitoring and will provide a significant contribution to current tiger conservation efforts in Chitwan National Park (CNP) by laying the foundations for community-based conservation. The buffer zones surrounding CNP are areas of special conservation concern, as they are frequented by tigers and also used heavily by local people for the collection of natural resources. Our citizen science approach will allow us to monitor tiger-use of these critical areas while recognizing the power of local people to contribute towards tiger research and conservation. Nepal Tiger Trust (NTT) has three decades of experience working closely alongside communities and local instituions in the Chitwan region. NTT has strong collaborative relationships with all of the local entities and organizations that will help ensure this project is successfully implemented.

To employ citizen science monitoring in Chitwan National Park, we will utilize three methods: 1. Establish stations for local citizens using buffer zones to report tiger sightings, tiger pugmarks, or tiger kills, and create signage encouraging them to do so; 2. Create a network for local community-level buffer zone organizations (Community-Based Anti-Poaching Unit, Buffer Zone User Committee, Community Forest User Group) to record sightings and other observations on a regular basis; 3. Tiger Conservation Awareness Workshops to incorporate the citizen science model into the community and promote conservation ethics and participatory research.

A conservation grant from Sequoia Park Zoo will assist in the development of an effective and sustainable system for citizen science monitoring of tigers in the buffer zones of CNP. This continuous collection of citizen science data will help guide tiger conservation strategies in buffer zones while promoting local conservation ethics and helping develop a sense of responsibility for wildlife amongst local citizens and members of buffer zone organizations. Lack of suitable habitats is one of the main limiting factors in the long-term conservation of genetically viable tiger populations. In order for tiger conservation goals to be successful, tigers and humans will inevitably have to share landscapes. This project will provide a framework for utilizing the power of local citizenry to monitor tigers in these shared landscapes in a manner that will help bridge the gap between local communities and wildlife management decisions. The model that is established here will not only be sustainable beyond the project funding period, but it has the potential for widespread application throughout Nepal and other tiger range countries.

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