Film clue to tiger 'missing link'
Monday, September 20 07:47 am
A few seconds of film showing tigers roaming wild in the foothills of the Himalayas could provide the "missing link" to an ambitious plan to try to save them from extinction.
Film clue to tiger 'missing link' Enlarge photo
A team from the BBC Natural History Unit captured the images using hidden cameras wedged into gullies and trees over six weeks during an expedition to Bhutan.
Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan said he was reduced to tears the first time he saw the footage. He said: "It was beyond words, pretty overwhelming."
He continued: "We were there about six weeks. For me the whole purpose of the expedition was to film evidence of the tigers living in Bhutan so all the effort and everything we did came down to a few seconds of footage."
The film is the first real evidence that tigers can thrive - and breed - in the hills which are more than 13,000 feet above sea level.
Mr Buchanan said: "This is such a significant discovery for tiger survival. The tigers' behaviour suggests they are breeding and I am convinced that there must now be cubs somewhere on this mountain. At current rates tigers will become extinct in around 15 years.
"I have spent a lot of time working with tigers in India and looking for them in Russia and pretty much everywhere they are they face problems.
"Bhutan is a Buddhist country and they don't hunt any wildlife and because the country is so wild poachers would find it very difficult to hunt them there."
Another member of the team, conservationist Dr Alan Rabinowitz said the discovery took them one step closer to an ambitious plan to link up isolated tiger populations across Asia with a "corridor" where they are safe from humans. He said: "Tigers are thought of as jungle creatures and there is pressure on their habitats from all sides. Yet we now know they can live and breed at this altitude which is a safer habitat for them. Bhutan was the missing link in this tiger corridor."
The team also captured film of the elusive snow leopard.