The last remaining sanctuary of the wild Bengal tiger: Bai Ma Gang

2022-06-18 0 By

Metuo is located in Nyingchi, Tibet, with Chayu in the east, Meilin in the west, Bomi in the north, and India in the south. It is the last county town in China with highway construction. With dense forests and abundant species, metuo is the most hidden paradise for wild animals and plants.Another name for Motuo is Baimagang, which means “hidden holy land like lotus”.Wild Bengal tigers live in such sanctuaries.The number of wild Bengal tigers has dropped sharply from about 11 reported by the State Forestry Administration in the 1990s to 1 to 3 in 2019, but fortunately, thanks to the efforts of generations of researchers, the live Bengal tigers have finally appeared in front of the Chinese people.”We were walking through deep snow on our way to The Pass of Toxiongla. On the other side of the dense forest is the only place in Tibet where tigers still live – Baimagang, or Motuo.”George Schaller, an American zoologist, wrote in “The Tiger of Baima Hill”.In mid-May 2000, he and lu Zhi, a professor at Peking University, Zhang Endi of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zhang Hong of the Xizang Forestry Bureau, along with 18 other workers who were helping them move supplies, went into the jungle on China’s border with India to look for tigers.Schaller a line of people came to the locality of the administrative agency that green pearl valley when township, where they learned from the mouth of the villagers, 11 village GaiXiang 126 Tibetan families of livestock, frequently subjected to a tiger in the 1990 s, reached its zenith in 1995, since then the number has declined, schaller line of people to the previous year,In 1999, 67 cattle and eight horses were looted.Lu Zhi, a Peking University professor who participated in the survey, recalled to Beijing Youth Daily what it was like to go looking for Bengal tigers.Metot is also a mecca for biodiversity conservationists, with warm, humid climates that include every belt of vegetation on earth, from rainforests to snowcapped mountains and glaciers.In addition to steep terrain, sparsely populated, there are large areas of no man’s land, is a paradise for wildlife, so it is included in the global biodiversity hotspot.But there is little research here, so the team hopes to conduct field research to learn about the state of biodiversity here and the conservation status of the yarlung Zangbo River Grand Canyon National Nature Reserve, which has been designated.Not long ago, the forestry department approved the killing of a Bengal tiger that often came to eat cattle and horses. There are serious conflicts between humans and tigers in the area. Therefore, one of the purposes of this investigation is to understand the current situation of the Bengal tiger and discuss possible solutions with local villagers.Lu Zhi recalled that at that time, Motuo had no roads and could only be entered by foot, and many places were still steep.Since there was no infrared camera in those days, Lu Zhi and his team conducted their investigation mainly by interviewing local villagers.She remembers an elementary school teacher carrying a red panda in one hand and a clouded leopard skin in the other to show researchers what she had killed.”At that time, wildlife protection had just begun, protection measures were very weak, and the long hunting habits of the local people had not changed.”Lu zhi said that there are mainly monba and Lhoba people in Motuo, and hunting is the traditional skill of the Lhoba people. The most common prey they kill is takin, after which they will share with people in the village. To be a good hunter is something that the local people are proud of.It used to take the natives two or three days to catch a takin, but then they could not catch a takin a week, because there were so few of them.Since takins were the main prey of tigers, the expedition held villagers’ meetings in the countryside to discuss how to protect both cattle and horses and tigers.Professor Lu Zhi said that for several years after 2000, no one saw a tiger in Motuo, and there were few losses of cattle and horses, although there were many legends of tigers.She remembered that during the inspection, local people said they had seen tiger footprints in the snow at the 4,500-height cliff of Jinzhula Pass in Metuo.Later, zhang Endi, a fellow professor at East China Normal University in Shanghai, sent his students to continue their study of the Bengal tiger, but found no sign of the tiger either.The expedition by Professors Lu Zhi, Zhang Endi and George Schaller confirmed the existence of Bengal tigers in Motuo, Xizang province, but they did not witness them. Bengal tigers have become known only as livestock predators among local villagers.”The Bengal tiger has been recorded in every township in Motuo County, Tibet, but there has been no confirmed report in this area since 2002.”This is the first sentence in the literature “Survey of Bengal Tiger Population in Motuo County, Tibet” by Wang Yuan and other researchers from The Forestry Survey and Planning Research Institute of Tibet Autonomous Region.In order to be able to solve the survival conditions of Bengal tiger in the ink to take off the mystery, the Tibet autonomous region forestry research planning institute of Beijing university college of life sciences, institute of zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing normal university institute of ecological eight researchers, in January 2013 to January 2019, a survey of motuo county 9 Bengal tiger potential distribution area,A systematic field survey was carried out to determine the distribution of wild Bengal tigers through infrared camera technology, information collection network method and trace line combined with footprint identification method.The field survey, which lasted for six years, concluded that only one to three non-resident Bengal tigers remained in Motuo County, and only wandered in Bubo township, south bank of Yarlung Zangbo River in Motuo Town, and south bank of Jinzhu Zangbo in Gedang Township during the dry season (October to March).The research team installed 70 infrared cameras in nine areas: Meiyilongba and Gedanggou, And Deyanggou, Wuma, Laji, Bisiri, Dange, south bank of Yajiang and Saigon River.As a result, no videos or photos were taken of the Bengal tigers.However, through the investigation of information collection network method, we have learned that the first three Bengal tiger tracks found in Dongcun, Wuma mountain and Laji Mountain of Beibudi from November to December 2017 appeared in a very close time and place, with male gender and similar shape and size of the tracks, so it may be the same tiger.From September to December 2018, the footprints of Bengal tigers were found three times. After analysis, the research team concluded that the tigers appeared in Muxiang and Gedang townships should be different individuals.As the location of the tiger in 2017 was about 100 km away from that in September 2018, and the time interval was one year, it was impossible to confirm whether the two tigers were the same.The team also found that there was a clear seasonality to the Bengal tiger’s appearance, usually from October to March, the local dry season.According to the analysis, the reason may be that after entering the dry season, the understory structure of the local primeval forest is not as rich as that of the rainy season, and most of the herbs and shrubs are withered by leaves. As a result, the success rate of predation of tigers may be higher than that of the rainy season, so the activities of tigers in the low altitude area increase.In addition, the high altitude area in the region begins to snow in the dry season, and a large number of ungulate herbivores migrate to the low altitude area for the winter. It is the survival instinct of carnivores to follow the migration of prey, so the Bengal tigers follow these prey into the investigation area in the dry season.The team analyzed the decline of the Bengal tiger as a result of excessive human disturbance resulting in the loss of suitable habitat for tigers and the reduction of prey populations due to hunting practices of local ethnic groups.And the most important reason is the excessive hunting caused by the conflict between human and tiger.Shortly after wang Yuan and other researchers finished their research, the Bengal tiger in Motuo ushered in a highlight moment.China’s first live footage of a Bengal tiger taken in the wild was released by the Kunming Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Aug 6, 2019.The figure of the wild Bengal tiger has finally entered the sight of Chinese people.In April of that year, a research team led by Dr. Li Xueyou, an associate researcher at the Kunming Institute of The Chinese Academy of Sciences, directly observed the Bengal tiger through an infrared camera in Medog County for the first time, and took photos and videos of the wild Bengal tiger.Even though it has been three years, Li xueyou still describes his excitement when he sees a wild Bengal tiger.He recalled that after seeing a Bengal tiger on one camera, he eagerly looked at all the other cameras and found that there were also direct recordings of Bengal tigers.When the news was posted online, some tiger fans even claimed that the research team had captured the Bengal tiger hunting.In response, Li said: “There was no predatory moment, but we did get dynamic footage of the Bengal tiger walking in its habitat and its main prey, the red muntjac.”Li told Beijing Youth Daily that the second expedition to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was a major national research mission carried out by his team, and the biggest discovery was the Bengal tiger.”This is the first direct evidence of the existence of the top predator in this area, and it is a very good data support for the second expedition. It is also an important discovery, and it is worth the hard work we have gone through in the wild.”During the 2019 study and observation of the Bengal tiger, some preliminary data have been obtained on the composition, distribution and relative numbers of prey, as well as the number of large and medium-sized carnivores of the same species as the Bengal tiger, which has accumulated substantial data for further analysis, Li said.A Bengal tiger walking in its natural state was captured by an infrared camera observed by Li’s research team.More than 10 rare and endangered top predators, including clouded leopards, jackals, golden cats and, more recently, snow leopards, were also discovered during the expedition.This is evidence that this area is rich with top predators.The prerequisite for carnivores to survive is having enough prey, and carnivores can serve as indicators of habitat conditions, Li said.For example, the Bengal tiger in the study needs to kill at least one herbivore per week, or 50 to 60 per year, and this prey population needs to reach about 10% of the total prey in the habitat to ensure sustainable survival.The discovery of the Bengal tiger means that within its range there are 500 to 600 medium to large herbivores that provide a complete trophic hierarchy for the top predator.”When the existence of the Bengal tiger is discovered, it will also have a great impact on the protection of other species. In addition, the protection of the Bengal tiger will be strengthened, and the protection of the endangered and treasured wildlife in the same area as the Bengal tiger will be strengthened.”Li Xueyou said.After 2019, because the infrared camera is limited by the environmental conditions such as snow and rain in Tibet, the infrared camera needs to be recovered once a year, and it also needs 3 to 4 months to recover once with good accessibility.At present, except for the physical Bengal tiger observed in 2019, no new discoveries have been made.There are still 300 infrared cameras in the field to collect data and carry out continuous observation to further assess the environmental tolerance and find suitable habitat for the Bengal tiger.Motuo, once known as “the last place with access to roads in China”, has suffered much less damage to the habitat of the Bengal tiger than the South China tiger due to its natural environment, but conflicts between humans and animals still occur frequently here.According to wang Yuan et al. ‘s research team, excessive hunting after the human-tiger conflict is the primary reason for the decline of Bengal tigers.According to the research team, tigers were seriously endangered in Medog county in the 1990s, and local herdsmen killed tigers to protect themselves and their livestock. According to incomplete statistics, seven to 10 tigers were killed in southeast Tibet from 1973 to 1991.The above analysis is also detailed in George Schaller’s “Tigers in Baimagang”, which describes in detail the tiger attacks on the livestock of local Tibetans.Bengal tigers have killed at least 20 to 30 people in a single reserve in Nepal, Li said.In addition to tigers, jackals also cause a certain amount of livestock loss to the local Tibetan population in Metuo every year.When it comes to how to deal with human-animal conflict, Li Xueyou believes that to a large extent, local villagers need to be tolerant of it, or give timely and reasonable compensation to villagers for their injuries, so as to gain their understanding and support.This is one of the ways to ease the conflict between man and beast.In addition, he also believes that biodiversity education and publicity should be carried out in the local area, so that villagers can gradually accept wild animals and prevent some villagers from killing wild animals for revenge.Local villagers should be able to benefit each other while protecting wild animals, and their tolerance of wild animals will also be enhanced.At the same time, the government should conduct in-depth scientific research on human-animal conflicts, and provide villagers with more intuitive and effective protection measures for the areas with high incidence of wildlife accidents and their causes.”Study, the tiger to the interference of human activities is can adapt to a certain extent, the presence of a tiger, are linked with low degree of human activity area, as a result of the existence of livestock will provide part of the food source for the tiger, this may let the tiger adapt to its environment, so the existence of wild tigers or wild flesh-eating animals such as dogs risk is bigger also.”Li Xueyou said.Li’s analysis is consistent with that of George Schaller 22 years ago.In his article “Tigers in Baimagang”, he also analyzed the reasons for the conflict between humans and tigers in Metuo: on the one hand, the wild animals for tigers’ food were killed by hunters in large numbers; on the other hand, the livestock of the local Tibetans were in a state of loose breeding and became the prey of tigers.Schaller found that abandoned farmlands near some villages were densely planted with ferns and bushes, which could be ideal for tigers to stalk livestock.He suggested clearing the areas and converting them into pastures suitable for livestock to graze.Lu zhi remembered that at a village meeting in Gedang, the issue of hunting was discussed.Villagers agree that the dwindling number of takins due to hunting may be one of the reasons tigers hunt horses and cattle, and that the conflict between tigers and humans could be reduced by reducing hunting.Dawa, a respected retired village official who once organized the villagers to hunt Bengal tigers, wears an ornament made of a tiger’s tooth around his neck.George schaller in the context of the “tiger among the hills,” also recorded the retired cadres, ideological transformation, dawa for schaller said: “to be honest, I was a hunter, but those in the past days, we work together with thinking, I think you are right, the tiger need wild animals, I swear I would never kill wild animals.”When Lu returned to Metuo in 2021, she was happy to see that the protection of Metuo has greatly improved compared to 20 years ago. Forests have grown on many of the burned ground, hunting has gradually disappeared from the lives of ordinary people, and the common hunting traps on the mountain ridges have not been used for many years.In some of the abandoned traps, sharpened branches can still be seen.At present, the relevant department staff is also slowly filling these traps, filling the wounds of the wild environment.Will Motuo be able to rebuild a healthy Bengal tiger population?According to Lu, it depends on how the main conservation efforts respond to the emerging conflicts and challenges of conservation and development, as well as people’s determination to protect one side’s green mountains and clear waters, including the coexistence of tigers.Intern Zhang Jingjing wen/Beijing Youth Daily reporter Zhang Ziyuan editor/Zhang Bin