Tiger populations have faced significant declines in recent years due to poaching, dwindling prey, and habitat loss. However, among the humid evergreen forests, dry open jungle, and grassy swamps of southern Nepal, tiger populations are growing. Climate change threatens this progress. Hotter temperatures, increased flooding, and prolonged dry spells are expected to endanger existing tiger and prey habitats. In April 2020, Nepal’s first high-altitude tiger was documented at 8,200 feet above sea level. This finding is likely not an isolated incident, as species shift their ranges to higher altitudes and latitudes in response to a warming climate.
WWF, in collaboration with community forest user groups and local government, conducted this project to improve habitat for Nepal’s tigers and their prey base (including wild boar, barking deer, and goral) at higher elevations. The focus of the project was to construct 12 strategically placed artificial ponds in the drier parts of the Churia range in the Shukla-Brahmadev-Jogbuda complex of Nepal, an area that connects the existing habitat, Shuklaphanta National Park, and potential climate refugia in the Mahabharat range where the tiger was recently sighted by camera trap. The intervention sites were carefully selected and assessed through consultations and field visits. The ponds collect water from nearby springs and feature a wildlife-friendly design to mitigate any risk to animals.
Monitoring has shown a significant increase in water availability, as well as an increased presence of prey species around these waterholes. The sites will continue to be monitored over time using camera traps, particularly during the dry seasons.