The BBC describing its filming of tigers at an altitude of 4,000 meters in Bhutan as a rare discovery has shocked experts, who say presence of big cats in the Himalayan kingdom is a known fact.
“Nothing new,” said Charles McDougal, a scientist who has worked for tiger conservation in Nepal and Bhutan and had filmed tigers in Bhutan in 1998, in an email to conservationists in South Asia. He along with Nepal’s Carma Tshering had submitted a tiger conservation strategy to Bhutan based on camera traps used to film tigers at an altitude of 4,000 meters.
Tigers live and breed in habitat up to 3,000 meters above sea level and use high altitude of more than 4,000 meters to move. The Himalayan range in Bhutan and Nepal, where the BBC had out its camera traps, had been a historical corridor for tigers to move from one region to another.
Bhutan has about 150 tigers mostly found in the range of 3,000-4,000 meters, which is also the only place in the world where tigers, leopards and snow leopards share the same valley.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) with global tiger conservationist Dr Alan Rabinowitz and wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan this summer installed camera traps in the high altitude and were stunned to find wildlife after three months. “The discovery has stunned experts, as the tigers are living at a higher altitude than any other known and appear to be successfully breeding,” the BBC said on its site.
It claimed there was little known about well-being of tigers in the Himalayan foothills of Bhutan and said the discovery could be crucial to a proposed scheme (Global Tiger Initiative) to save the species from extinction. Much before the BBC film the initiative identified the tiger range in Bhutan as region for future tiger conservation.
The story titled “Lost Tigers Discovered in Bhutan Mountains” also said their presence in Bhutan highlands have been confirmed by footage by a BBC natural history camera crew.
The claim evoked a strong reaction with experts saying that tigers had never gone missing in Bhutan. “It was a pity BBC did not acknowledge the amazing work on the high altitude tigers done by scientists in Bhutan and Nepal since 1990’s,” said Belinda Wright, director of Wildlife Conservation Society of India.