“I didn’t have much to do with tiger conservation for two years after, but now if I don’t see a tiger’s paw mark every day I feel something is missing,” he said.
The Observer joined Bhadai and about 20 villagers armed with sticks, mainly women in their teens and 20s, on an anti-poaching patrol in the forest near Gauri. Bhadai spotted some disturbed leaves and scattered them with a stick to reveal two iron traps; a large net was found nearby.
“Without a forest there’s no life for us. That’s why we conserve the forest and patrol. We must save the tiger, because the tiger is head of everything in the food chain. When we have lots of tigers, it means the habitat is strong enough to support all of us. Tourists will come and our village will improve,” said Harirani Chaudhary, 19, a student on the patrol.
A few months ago, seven tigers were caught on camera traps in the 3km-long Khata Corridor and nine rhinos.
“Their appearance shows what is being done is working. Fifteen years ago, the Khata Corridor was barren land and bad forest, and there were no tiger or rhino and only a few elephant,” Chapagain said.
That progress has been made is clear, but the battle to save the tigers is still far from won.