Skip to main content

From the field: Studying big cat health in Nepal

Nature can be dangerous and dramatic—but sometimes it’s just purely peaceful. At the end of a busy season researching how canine distemper virus (CDV) affects Nepal’s tigers and leopards, Cornell Wildlife Health Center’s wild carnivore health specialist Dr. Martin Gilbert took a break to recharge his batteries with the wildlife of Bardia National Park.

“There is nothing quite like an evening spent beside a lazy river watching an amorous pair of Bengal tigers cooling off,” Gilbert said. “A resplendent Indian peafowl came for a drink while a couple of greater one-horned rhinos ambled through the shallows upstream. Bliss!”

Tigers, like the one in this video, are reduced to smaller and increasingly isolated populations that are less able to withstand outbreaks of diseases like distemper. Gilbert’s population viability analyses estimated that a population of 25 tigers is 65% more likely to decline to extinction in the next 50 years in the presence of CDV. Gilbert and his Cornell Wildlife Health Center colleagues are working with partners across the tiger’s range to understand the threat that CDV represents for tigers in diverse ecosystems, and to gain the epidemiological understanding required to design proportional and locally appropriate management strategies.

This project is made possible thanks to financial support from Cornell Feline Health Center.