• The Curious Traveler

Lost tiger population discovered in Bhutan mountains

A “lost” population of tigers has been filmed living in the Bhutanese Himalayas. The discovery has shocked tiger experts, as these tigers are living at a higher altitude than any others known and appear to be successfully breeding.

Their presence of tigers in the mountains of Bhutan has been confirmed by video tape taken by a BBC natural history camera crew. Tigers are known to live in the Himalayan foothills of Bhutan, though little is known about them, or how many there are.However, leading tiger expert Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, formerly of the World Conservation Society and now President of Panthera, a conservation organisation dedicated to safeguarding big cat species, suspected that tigers may also be living at higher altitude, following anecdotal reports by villagers suggesting that some were roaming as high as 4000m.

So, together with a film crew, Dr. Rabinowitz decided to investigate by journeying to Bhutan to seek proof that such mountain tigers did indeed exist. Dr. Rabinowitz enlisted the help of BBC wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan, who has filmed wild cats worldwide for more than 10 years. Under Dr. Rabinowitz’s direction, Mr. Buchanan trekked up into the mountains, where he then set a series of camera traps, that would automatically film any creature moving in front. The team left the traps at an altitude of between 3,000m and 4,100m, above which trees start being unable to survive.

Three months later, he returned to see what they had caught on camera. The cameras recorded a wealth of wildlife, including red foxes, jungle cats, monkeys, leopards, Himalayan black bear, tarkin, serow, musk deer and even a red panda. This is the only place on earth known to have tigers, leopard and snow leopards all sharing the same valley. It is remarkable to have these three big cats sharing their range.
Most extraordinarily, the cameras took footage of two wild tigers, one male and one female, a discovery that moved Mr. Buchanan to tears. The images are the first known footage of tigers in the remote mountains of Bhutan and the first hard evidence that tigers are capable of living at that altitude. This find was made in close collaboration with Bhutan Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, with help and guidance from forest guard Phup Tshering. “The fact they can live here is just so important, for tigers in the wild, for their future,” said Mr. Buchanan, on seeing the footage for the first time.

The large male tiger, sighted at an altitude of 4,100m is recorded scent-marking, confirming that the tiger pair are living within their own territory, and not just passing through. The female tiger, sighted at the same altitude, can also be seen to be lactating, strongly suggesting the tigers are breeding at that altitude. Further footage shows tigers living lower at an altitude of 3000m.



About Boundless Journeys

Boundless Journeys is an award-winning small group adventure tour operator, selected as one of the “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth” by National Geographic ADVENTURE, February 2009; and a “World’s Best” tour operator by Travel + Leisure, August 2009.

With a diverse collection of locally guided, small group itineraries and Private Collection trips around the world, Boundless Journeys offers “The World’s Great Adventures.” The adventure trips for 2-16 guests are active, ranging from leisurely cultural explorations and wildlife safaris to challenging trekking in remote regions ― with plenty of easy to moderate walking and sea kayaking in between.


Our dedicated team of travel experts are here to help.


Travel + Leisure World's Best Award

Top 5 World's Best Tour Operators
Multi-year Recipient

National Geographic Traveler

50 Tours Of A Lifetime
Multi-year Recipient

National Geographic Adventure Magazine

Best Adventure Travel Company Winner

ATTA member since 2006