Rare images of tigers in Bhutan highlight the need for greater protection of wildlife ‘corridors’

  • To mark Global Tiger Day (29th July 2017), WWF have released rare camera trap images highlighting the need for greater protection of ‘wildlife corridors’ across tiger range states
  • International photojournalist and filmmaker, Emmanuel Rondeau, captures images of a  wild tiger during a three month expedition battling high altitude weather conditions in  a remote area of Bhutan
  • Populations of wild tigers have declined by over 95% since the beginning of the 20th century largely due to due to hunting and habitat loss

A wild tiger, captured by camera trap, moving at night through wildlife biological corridor. Central Bhutan, Bhutan.

A wild tiger, captured by camera trap, moving at night through wildlife biological corridor. Central Bhutan, Bhutan.

Image by © Emmanuel Rondeau / WWF-UK

 has been captured in a camera trap  set at high altitude and released today by WWF (29 July 2017) to mark Global Tiger Day 2017. With only around 100 tigers in the wild in Bhutan, these images verify that the endangered big cats are actively using stretches of land that connect protected areas - ‘wildlife corridors’ - stressing the need to protect them.

The images were captured by photojournalist and filmmaker Emmanuel Rondeau who undertook a three month expedition in Bhutan to capture images of wild tigers. He faced torrential downpours, snowfall, high altitudes and extreme terrain to capture images of a tiger in a wildlife corridor - with the goal of demonstrating these corridors are used by tigers moving between protected areas in Bhutan.

Guided by WWF field staff in Bhutan, Rondeau placed eight camera traps above 3500 metres above sea level in an area of land between two national parks. Conditions were relentless from the outset when a spring evening turned into a winter’s morning with heavy snow fall stalling progress. Emmanuel’s cameras got wet and one stopped working for a while. During the trip Emmanuel and the team climbed the 600 metre route ten times totalling over 6000 metres of climbing through dense forest.

In spite of the challenges of operating from such a remote location, Emmanuel’s camera traps not only documented the first high resolution  images of wild tigers  at high altitude in Bhutan but captured photos and video of  a range of other species including Himalayan black bear, red panda, barking deer, blood pheasant, takin, sambar deer and marbled cat.  These corridors are lifelines to otherwise isolated populations of tigers and other wildlife and are critical to enabling genetic diversity and long term conservation and sustainable growth of these populations.

Emmanuel Rondeau said:

“For the first time in about 100 years, the global wild tiger numbers have been increasing to a total estimate of 3890 individuals – so that’s really amazing. That didn’t mean my tiger mission in Bhutan was easy, though – the last tiger survey revealed that there were only around 100 tigers in the wild there, and sure enough it was 23 days before my cameras first picked up a tiger. When I saw the tiger on my camera screen for the first time, I couldn’t believe it. It was such a clear shot, and exactly what I needed to show that tigers are using these corridors and to help strengthen conservation measures.”

There were thought to be around 100,000 wild tigers at the beginning of the 20th century, and now there are only around 3,900. Hunting and habitat loss have been key drivers of this overall population decline, and over more recent years, poaching habitat loss and deterioration have continued.

Rebecca May, tiger specialist at WWF, said:

“Tigers in the wild can travel over 100km to establish their own territories. Protected areas provide vital pockets of habitat for them, but in reality they venture outside these areas, and they need to, in order for wild tiger populations to continue to recover. Our hope is that sharing Emmanuel’s new footage will help make the case for greater protection and conservation efforts  in such habitat corridors  as this highlights to us all that wild tigers really do use these areas.

“Each new piece of evidence of tigers thriving in the wild is worth celebrating, but they are still endangered with only around 3,900 in the wild. To help their populations recover, we need increased and sustained political commitment and to scale up what we know works in all tiger range countries, and this requires passion and unwavering support from tiger protectors including us in the UK.”

WWF is calling for greater support to help achieve the global goal to double the number of tigers in the wild (to at least 6,000) by 2022, the next Chinese Year of the Tiger. WWF’s on-the-ground work in priority tiger landscapes includes efforts to tackle poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, to bend the curve on habitat loss and to help communities living near wild tigers to support and benefit from conservation.


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