Nepal has pulled off the extraordinary feat of more than doubling its tiger population in the past 10 years, bringing them back from the brink of extinction. But it has come at a cost to local communities – an increase in tiger attacks.
“There are two feelings when you come head to head with a tiger,” says Captain Ayush Jung Bahadur Rana, part of a unit tasked with protecting the big cats.
“Oh my God, what a majestic creature. And the other is, oh my God, am I dead?”
He now often sees Bengal tigers on the armed patrols he carries out across the open plains and dense bush of Bardiya, the largest and most undisturbed national park in Nepal’s Terai region.
Nepal’s zero-poaching approach has worked to protect the tigers. The military units support the national park teams. And in buffer zones next to the park, community anti-poaching units monitor nature corridors that allow tigers to roam safely.
One such strip of land, the Khata corridor, links Bardiya National Park with the Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary across the border in India.
In the past 12 months, 16 people have been killed by tigers in Nepal. In the previous five years, a combined total of 10 people were killed.