© Government of Nepal-DNPWC/WWF Nepal

As rare as the tigers she helps monitor and conserve, Sabita Malla, WWF’s young female conservationist is a sight to see whether she’s working diligently at the jungles of Bardia, Chitwan, and Parsa or while she’s engaged in a conversation with the locals.

In just a short span of life, she has already managed a life full of achievements. Needless to say that the life of a 27 year old female who lives weeks on end in jungles is anything less than exciting.

During the tiger monitoring operation in Bardia, which happened this year from March to August, Sabita spent days camping in the jungles of Bardia. The total area the jungle covers is 968 km2, therefore, to make her life easier, Sabita had decided to divide the jungle into 4 blocks. This way, one block was handled at a time, which made things more precise and lessened the chances of missing out parts of the forest while monitoring tigers. “I cannot afford to miss even an inch of the jungle, each and every corner of the forest is very crucial in tiger monitoring,” said sabita.

During the monitoring season, Sabita’s daily routine was very systematic and without much variation. A typical day included waking up at 5 a.m. and going for line transect survey, which is a method for prey base monitoring/ estimation. While most of the time, transect surveys weren’t risky, there was one incident, which almost cost Sabita her life.
“Most mornings I got up at 5 and got ready to roam the jungles for line transect survey. I usually tried to avoid areas in which danger may have been possible. However, the morning of March 12 was somewhat different. While returning from the line transect survey, I was chased by a Rhino. The distance between the rhino and I was only 5 meters. When it came charging towards me I climbed a tree since that was the only way I could save myself. That was the first time I felt afraid.”

© WWF Nepal

If it was anyone other than Sabita, they would have been shocked for at least a few days at what had happened. However, her love towards conservation had no chance of slowing down. “The minute the rhino left, I thanked God that I had been saved. But, in a sense I felt more proud of the work that my team at WWF and I were doing. I was happy to see one more rhino alive instead of it falling prey to poachers.”

Sabita further clarified her passion for her work and said, “After getting up at 5, I didn’t really have the time to rest. The line transect survey alone took me up to 6 hours a day. After that, I ate lunch and rested for about an hour, then, it was back to checking camera traps. After checking the camera traps, I had to go through each and every photo that the camera had captured. If in case there was a tiger that had been captured, I then had to sit down for hours and analyze the tiger stripes in order to determine whether or not we had already spotted the tiger. “

“While analyzing the tiger patterns, I always found myself wishing that the patterns were different than the ones that had already been analyzed, and when I did realize that they were different, I was very very happy. Those are the only times that I could feel proud of the work that I do, and think that through what I have been doing, maybe, I have helped conserve tigers and increase tiger population and lent a helping hand towards TX2.”

The tiger monitoring study conducted in Bardia National Park identified 37 individual tigers through camera traps as compared to the 2009 baseline that had identified 18 tigers in the national park.

Story by: Mreedu Gyawali