Nepal's Biodiversity Conservation Center was initially established in the early 1970s by the Smithsonian Institution in collaboration with Nepal's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) to study the tiger, its prey species, and the role of protected areas in wildlife conservation. Several students from the University of Minnesota including Mel Sunquist, David Smith, and Dale Miquelle participated in this project as a part of their graduate research. Personnel from the BCC have also come to the University of Minnesota to conduct graduate work. In 1989 the Smithsonian Institution transferred the research station to the Nepal Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), a non-government conservation organization. NTNC and the BCC station have continued the Smithsonian Institute's pioneering research in the park and have continued to attract international participation. During the 1980s and 1990s, the center hosted research initiated by both Nepali and foreign scientists from various organizations including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development USAID, International Trust for Nature Conservation (ITNC), the University of Arizona, and the University of Minnesota. The research focus of the BCC has evolved into what today is an interdisciplinary center where scholars from different background and countries come to study biodiversity, the human dimensions of conservation, and community-based conservation strategies.
One example of the type of participatory conservation that the Nepal program encourages is the cooperation between managers and staff at Royal Chitwan National Park and communities in and around the park. As a result of the voluntary resettlement of residents from core areas to areas outside of the park, significantly degraded area in the periphery of the park has been restored and tigers now occur these areas.
The focus of this ongoing research program is the Thailand Tiger Project, a long-term collaborative project of Thailand's Wildlife Research Division, the CLAWS lab, and others. The overall objective of this project is to secure a sustainable future for tigers in Thailand and the region. The project is organized into the following 3 themes:
- Education and Outreach
For a detailed description of this project, visit: Tiger Conservation in Thailand (.pdf)
The Sundarbans Tiger Project is a Bangladesh Forest Department and University of Minnesota collaboration to ensure that tigers in the Sunderbans—one of the worlds most unique conservation landscapes—survive and thrive.
The idea for creating such a project was first developed during a field survey in 2001 of the Sundarbans by a party including Md. Osman Gani, Ishtiaq U. Ahmad, James L. D. Smith, Fred Bagley and K. Ullas Karanth. They realized that the Sundarbans contained probably one of the largest populations of wild tigers left in the world, and as such there was an urgent need to start measures that would ensure the protection of this precious area.
The Save the Tiger Fund and the United States Fish and Wildlife service donated funds to support the initial phase of work. Since then, other donors to the project have included the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund and Banglalink.
The project was initially research focused but has since expanded its scope to include both capacity building and conservation awareness.
Completed activities include:
- successful capture of two tigers—both of which were fitted with GPS collars and tracked for several months
- completion of tiger abundance surveys for the last 2 years
- completion of prey abundance surveys carried out in the last year
- completion of a livestock depredation survey
- publication of an educational and technical handbook that has been distributed to about 90% of personnel in the Bangladeshi Sunderbans
- the creation of an informative and interactive website
- training of several forest department staff in immobilization methods
- training of several forest department in tiger and prey abundance surveys
- creation of a Tiger Response Teams to deal with tiger-human conflict
The project is now in the process of handing over the management of activities to the Bangladesh Forest Department.
For more information about this project, visit: www.wild-team.org
This project focuses on the conservation of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) in their wild habitats. Although the project is based in Thailand, it has broad relevance and value to fishing cats throughout the Southeast Asian portion of their range.
The project has four components:
- a regional review of fishing cat distribution and conservation status
- a detailed ecological study of fishing cats
- a disease monitoring program to screen animals for the presence of several emerging zoonotic diseases, and
- an education and outreach program
CLAWS has initiated and participated in a number of training, research and conservation activities focused on understanding the status and conservation needs of tigers in Cambodia. CLAWS' work in Cambodia started in 1998 when Sun Hean, an officer in Cambodia's Wildlife Projection Office, started work on his M.Sc. thesis on tiger status and the trade in tiger parts between Cambodia and neighboring countries. In 2000, Sun Hean, Dave Smith, Pete Cutter, and Passanan Cutter all contributed to training and implementation activities that led to the establishment of the country's first dedicated tiger conservation program.
Most recently, Sun Hean and Pete Cutter have been involved in coordinating a country-wide review of status of tigers and tiger habitat.
This project has grown from an international training workshop that took place in Thailand in 2006 and resulted in the production of a detailed, Chinese language manual for conducting tiger and tiger prey surveys in Chinese forests. Shortly after the training course, participants successfully documented the presence of Tigers in southeastern China through the use of remote camera traps.
The project is now focused on tiger survey and monitoring activities in and around Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve in China's Yunnan province, the site of the recent tiger photo and perhaps the site with the best prospects for supporting wild tigers in southeastern China.
This project is based in Omnogov (southern Gobi region) which is the largest but least populated province in Mongolia. The projects primary objectives are to map the distribution of snow leopards in the region and to develop conservation strategies including reducing human-wildlife conflict in the area. Surveys include detecting signs of snow leopards and conducting interviews with local residents and herders to determine the frequency of livestock depredation and whether depredation events involve snow leopards or wolves.