Roaring Commitments: Her Majesty’s Call for Sustainable Finance in Tiger Habitats

“His Majesty and I are delighted to welcome all our guests to Bhutan. Most of you have flown in from different parts of the world, and that in itself speaks volumes about your commitment to the cause of tigers and sustaining their landscapes.

Today is International Mother Earth Day. I cannot think of a more meaningful time to reflect on our regard for wildlife, our interdependence with nature, and our commitment to preserve Mother Earth for all time.

We have gathered here because the tiger – this majestic symbol of grace, wisdom, and strength – needs help. For us in Bhutan, the tiger is one of our spiritual guardians. Like in many other cultures, the tiger is revered in Bhutanese folklore and mythology. And I am sure it is no coincidence that we are meeting not far from the Taktshang monastery, more popularly known as the tiger’s nest – which is an iconic landmark in Bhutan.

One of the tragedies of life on earth is that precious animal species are  increasingly driven to extinction. I vividly recall, and I’m sure many of you do as well, the images from 2018 of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino who captured the world’s attention. His passing marked the extinction of his kind. The photographs of Sudan and his caretaker served as a poignant reminder of a declining species driven to extinction and the critical scale of biodiversity loss, and humanity’s role in it. The global response to Sudan’s death was one of grief and regret. The attention his story captured must continue to emphasise the increasing urgency of preventing any species from further extinction.

It is truly heartbreaking that even the tiger is now endangered. If our generation witnesses the extinction of tigers, it means that we have failed. If we allow biodiversity to erode, it means that we have lost our values. If we cannot sustain the ecosystem, it means we have lost the essence of life.

We are here today because we share the sense of urgency to protect tiger habitats. Tiger landscapes are diverse and ecologically abundant regions; and we know that by preserving them, we are protecting other critically endangered wildlife. Such reserves provide essential ecosystem services, ranging from clean water and air, to the carbon sink value of dense forests. In other words, we are safeguarding the well-being of our planet.

According to the latest Global Tiger Recovery Program report, we have succeeded in reversing the century old decline in the global tiger population. And we are proud that Bhutan has contributed to this positive trend. It is a marvel that the Royal Bengal Tiger is at home in Bhutanese mountains, roaming more than 4,000 metres above sea level.

While we know that all this comes from Bhutan’s ingrained reverence for nature, I would like to thank every single person involved in this achievement. Our forest rangers who braved the harsh terrain to set up camera traps; the experts who analysed the information; and, not least, the rural communities that support wildlife conservation at a cost to their own livestock and agricultural crops. I would also like to acknowledge the immense efforts put in by other tiger range countries for their success in recovering tigers in the wild.

We extend our gratitude to our partner organisations and all supporters who provide the resources, expertise, and collaboration needed to make meaningful progress in tiger conservation. And thank you for supporting Bhutan, who has committed to remain a carbon negative country despite our own economic challenges.

Bhutan’s unique approach to growth is guided by the values and beliefs that have evolved over the centuries. Our belief in the interdependence of all life forms have helped us nurture the harmony between our traditional societies and nature. Bhutan’s forests, covering 70% of our land and absorbing over two-and-a-half times our carbon emissions, are a haven for a unique range of wildlife.

On a more personal note, His Majesty and I have continued his family tradition of visiting the Royal Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in the southern foothills whenever we can. Our children have grown to love Manas, surrounded by breathtaking nature and wildlife. They especially enjoy sightings of the critically endangered golden langur that we see almost daily. Occasionally, His Majesty likes to go for an evening run along a familiar route in the forest. The last time we were in Manas, we were overjoyed when, the morning after one of His Majesty’s runs, foresters discovered footprints of a Tigress and her Cub on the same path.

One of the most exciting developments for 21st century Bhutan is the creation of the Gelephu Mindfulness City, a Special Administrative Region envisioned by His Majesty The King, which promises to take the bond between humans and nature to new heights. It spans over 2,500 sq. km. between a Wildlife Sanctuary and a National Park which are renowned for their abundant biodiversity. This unique city will be a pioneering economic hub where vibrant development and growth is merged with pristine nature, abundant wildlife, and rich culture in an environment of mindfulness and spirituality.

This city will define a new era for Bhutan, a future that blends the latest innovations with the age old wonders of nature.

Ladies and Gentlemen, In our commitment to conservation, we must not neglect the realistic and vital need for sustainable funding. All too often, the invaluable work of conservationists is impeded by the unpredictability of financial support. Therefore, the intention of this conference is to raise significant resources through innovative financing mechanisms for tiger landscapes.

I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and admiration for everyone who is here today. The dedication and impact of your work in your respective fields is incredibly motivating.

Together, we can rewrite the narrative of extinction and loss, and instead create a beautiful story of compassion, resilience, restoration and reverence for all living beings. And in this shared journey of conservation, may we find comfort in the interconnectedness of all life and the boundless potential for positive change.

Thank you and Tashi Delek.”

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