Singye Wangmo exudes a natural passion for wildlife. One of the few female forestry officers working on the ground in Bhutan, she spends her days protecting the tigers of Royal Manas National Park from poachers.
Leading a team of 30 rangers, Singye works across the national park to set up camera traps, monitor wildlife, and conduct surveys on foot. The team patrols hotspot areas for poaching as the threat from wildlife poachers and timber smugglers is real and ever-present. Additionally, the landscape becomes treacherous with flooding and landslides during the monsoon season.
Singye’s role requires her to leave her husband, parents and pets at home as she spends weeks working in the field protecting tigers and other wildlife that live in the park. “My parents and husband are my tower of strength,” says Singye. “They think my job is very special and unique for a woman, but at the same time they’re worried sick about my safety when I’m in the field."
Encounters in the wild
Poaching groups often venture in to the park, no matter how much Singye and her team patrol known areas for poachers. During her first-ever field visit, she encountered a huge group of armed poachers. Singye thought she was going to die. It was only through her training, speed of thought and team’s unity that they managed to drive the poachers out of the park.
Although one of the scariest moments of her life, this event has only made Singye feel stronger. “Before this incident, I had a lot of doubt and misgivings about my capability. But I maintained my composure, so now I am more fearless.”
Over the last 3 years, Singye has seen countless, indirect signs of tigers but is still waiting for the day she sees a tiger in the wild with her own eyes. “Tigers are very elusive and don’t come into contact with humans. I feel sheer excitement when I come across a tiger scratch mark or pug mark, or catch a glimpse of them from our camera traps. Seeing pictures of tigers gives me the most satisfaction.”
Images from Singye’s camera traps have been invaluable in the fight against wildlife crime. Countless poachers have been caught on camera, and the images have provided solid evidence of tigers in the protected areas of the national park.
We can all protect tigers
Her love of tigers and the need to monitor their population constantly keeps Singye coming back to the park. If tigers aren’t counted yearly, data will be lost and Singye’s team will be unable to gauge whether their efforts to protect this species are proving successful.
“The conservation of tigers adds to the bigger quest of learning about the ecology of this species, protecting their habitat which other species and many humans rely on. It’s so important that our generation uses science to protect tigers. Other parks where tigers live have to step up a notch – we need to keep working on linking science and conservation."
“The fight to save tigers is our collective responsibility. Human beings are the answer to saving tigers. You and I are the answer.”