I Protect Tigers
Singye Wangmo is one of the three characters who protect tigers she says – “I am more fearless” Watch video here
“My parents and husband are my tower of strength. 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.”
Meet Singye Wangmo, 31 years old, married, with 5 cats, 2 dogs and a natural passion for wildlife. She spends her days protecting the tigers of Royal Manas National Park from poachers. Singye is a Tiger Protector.
One of only a few female forestry officers working in Bhutan, Singye’s role requires her to leave her husband, parents and pets at home while she spends weeks working in the field protecting the estimated 33 tigers and other wildlife that reside in Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park.
Leading a team of 30 rangers, Singye’s role involves the monitoring of tigers through camera traps, conducting surveys on foot and the constant patrolling of known poaching hot spots.
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 came across huge group of armed poachers. She thought she was going to die.
Although one of the scariest moments of her life, this incident 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.”
Dangers do not only come from poaching. The landscape becomes treacherous with flooding and landslides during the monsoon season. And the team face an ever-present threat from poachers and timber smugglers.
But Singye is determined to continue the work she has been doing for 3 years: “The fight to save tigers is our collective responsibility. Human beings are the answer to saving tigers. You and I are the answer.”
Singye Wangmo is one of the first and few Bhutanese women working on the ground as a forest officer monitoring and protecting tigers.
Singye’s role requires her to leave her family at home while she spends weeks working in the field protecting the estimated 33 tigers in Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park. She leads a team of 30 men, moving across the national park setting up camera traps to monitor wildlife; conducting surveys on foot and patrolling hotspot areas for poaching. All of her team are armed, as the threat from poachers and timber smugglers is real and ever-present.
Bhutanese Culture and spirituality:
The love and respect for nature and wildlife ingrained in Bhutan’s culture has helped shape the country’s conservation efforts. Tigers are deeply rooted in the religious and cultural heritage of Bhutan. Tigers are a symbol of great power and are recognised as one of four ‘protector animals’ in the Tag Seng Chung Druk quartet (Tiger, Snow Lion, Garuda and Dragon). The tiger, representing “confidence” is the only living creature, while the other three are merely mythological.
Paintings and statues of the species fill Bhutan’s temples and they remain an icon for the Bhutanese, as well as for those working in conservation. Singye’s altar room in her home houses a picture of Indian Buddhist master Padmasambhava riding on a tiger. She regularly visits her local temple or prays at home with her mother during special occasions and before she undertakes important endeavours, such as her field surveys at Royal Manas National Park. Her belief carries her through.
Tigers and Conservation:
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 very 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 which tigers belong in the protected areas of the national park.
Singye’s role is not without its challenges. The landscape she works in becomes treacherous with flooding rivers and landslides throughout the monsoon season. And there is the ever-present threat she and her team face from poachers and timber smugglers. “My parents and husband are my tower of strength. 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.”
Despite Singye and her team’s work to patrol hotspot areas, poachers still venture into the park. During her first time in the field, the team of rangers came across a huge group of 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.”
Science and passion:
Her love of tigers and the need to constantly monitor their population keeps Singye coming back to the park. If tigers aren’t counted yearly, data will be lost and Singye’s team would be unable to gauge whether their efforts to protect this species were failing or 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.”