Wednesday, October 6, 2010

False Claims By The BBC Filming Team: Part III

In celebration of the BBC’s filming and release of the footage of the Royal Bengal tigers living in the alpine jungles of Bhutan which the BBC and the filming team have gone on to claim as the first ever evidence of the tiger’s existence at such high altitude, Gordon Buchanan the cameraman makes the following revealing statement: 

“Back at the start of the noughties I was making Tigers Of The Emerald Forest, a film about an isolated tiger population of about 30 individuals (a healthy breeding population) living in a little known national park in north central India. 

The film was about the success story of those tigers and how, despite the pressures they faced, they were doing really well. 

Within two years of my departure, all of them, every last one had been wiped out by illegal poaching. The news of that tragedy threw into sharp focus the realisation that the very worst was true - that we faced a future where tigers could no longer survive in the wild”. 

Here is the link: 

So, by his own admission, is it possible that he and the BBC may have knowingly endangered our tigers that our government and a lot of people connected with the tiger conservation project have worked so hard to protect and preserve for the past close to two decades? Ofcourse not, because, in the words of Jonny Keeling, series producer of “Lost Land of the Tiger” on the same blog mentioned above; Knowledge that tigers live in Bhutan can be found widely across the internet”. Now, isn’t that rather contradictory for someone who claimed that they had the first hard evidence of the tiger’s existence in Bhutan? 

Will our tigers face the same fate as those of the Emerald Forests of north central India? Perhaps we should invite Gordon Buchanan to give us a reading on the matter, given his past experience. 

One of the BBC sites also mentions; “Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan searched for tigers in the high Himalayas following rumours from local people that tigers live in the mountains”. What BBC means is that what we know and can prove with photographic evidence is nothing more than rumours and what they show is the real hard evidence. 

In another one of their sites, the BBC also proposes to suggest the establishment of a wildlife corridor for wildlife to move from place to place. Gordon Buchanan writes, in the same blog mentioned above; “If we care enough and can create a corridor spanning the Himalayas from Nepal to Thailand, tigers still have a chance”. This shows clear lack of knowledge and expertise on the part of the BBC filming team. These statements can only mean that they were unaware of the existence of our Biological Corridor that was established in the late 1990’s - specifically, in the words of Karma Jigme of the NCD; “that it was because of tigers that the concept of biological corridors came about and was established in 1998”. 

The BBC claims that they worked closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Forestry officials and staff. If that is the case, how is it possible that the BBC team was not aware of the existence of photographic and other evidences that establishes, beyond doubt, the tiger’s existence in Bhutan? The Department of Forestry is the custodian of all the evidences gathered over the years on all the work done and data collected on the tiger’s habitat, its protection and conservation. Did the Forestry officials conceal the truth from the BBC team or, did the BBC deliberately withhold established facts and evidences so that they can claim full credit for the “discovery” of the tigers? 

Tim Martin, BBC’s Executive Producer responded to the email of Sonam Wangdi of NCD, Department of Forestry who sought clarifications on the matter - but the Producer had nothing convincing to offer by way of reason - other than some vague and lame excuses. 

Jonny Keeling says that what the BBC claimed was that they have proof of tigers breeding at such high altitudes - based on the footage of a lactating female tiger. That is rather strange. If tigers have been known to be living in Bhutan for the past many centuries, isn’t it reasonable to assume that they would have been breeding? Otherwise wouldn’t they have been long extinct? 

Even when criticism of their falsehood is mounting, Keeling is adamant and states; “We made clear in the press release and in the series that people in Bhutan had seen tracks of tigers at high altitude”. Can you believe the audacity of the man? He still does not admit that he is aware of the existence of evidence of the tiger’s existence in Bhutan’s high altitude mountains. Even worst, he credits our biologists and conservationists with having seen only tracks of the tiger. 

To be continued …………..


  1. aue yeshey, i am republishing this at bhutanjournals.

  2. Hi admin-bjournals,

    Please go ahead

  3. The prime minister said that the benefit to Bhutan is that more than five million people have viewed this report, confirming that there is a country where tigers are thriving, even if they are being decimated all over the world. “I’m personally pleased with BBC’s reports,” he said. “It’s not of who gets the credit in terms of individual but the country having received considerable credit as a result of this and benefitting from it,” he said.

    The prime minister said that, as a result of this, there has been a stream of inquiries and interest was expressed by nature lovers and environmentalists wanting to come as tourist to Bhutan. “It’s good and we should be happy.”

    Lyonchooen also told the media that there were those, who felt their work have not been recognised and been undermined. “The bottom line is BBC having sent a team of experts under the guidance of most renowned zoologist were able to do things in ways that make their recordings and their claims authentic and believable,” he said.

  4. Kudos!! Mr. Yeshey.
    I appreciate your concern. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Where are Yeshey? I hope you are not kidnapped by BBC for exposing their film crew's lies.

    It is disheartening if you think of that too much, let forget that for some time and post some of your latest pictures...

    I am waiting for your say on my close up shots:

  6. Hi Yeshey,
    Ngawang(Admin-1 on WAB)is in Thimphu. I was dying to meet you and was asking for your number. How sad I didn't have it. Should have asked the girl who wanted your phallus lol.

    Well the point is he caught hold of your article on Kolkota City written during the writer's workshop last time. He wanted to publish it on WAB, which is why he wanted to meet you.

    He asked me to contact you right away and request you to publish that great piece on WAB yourself instead. It will be your first post!


  7. I do feel that most of this is due to miscommunication rather than some attention-grab or credit-stealing on the part of the BBC. In any unresolved issue, I will always side with evidence-based research. The fact that tigers "can be found" above 4000 meters has been observed by many, but the problem is this: Those altitudes are mountain passes between two lower lying regions. Is it those regions that are the real habitats for the tigers, and they are simply passing through the mountain tops? Or do they actually reside in and inhabit the higher altitudes? I did not see any evidence until the BBC study that proved the residence of tigers at the higher altitudes. It was foolish on their part not to be explicit about this and to assume that Bhutanese could be discerning about the details of research claims. Obviously, we are not so discerning, and easily offended, which was foolish on our part. Rumor and tradition are no substitute for hard, controlled research. Unless you had properly documented photographic evidence of the same, you cannot claim to had made this discovery first. Though your artistry cannot be denied, research is a rigorous process with certain specific criteria and rules.

  8. Hi all

    Sorry - I was out on a 2 weeks trek to Mt. Gangkharpuensum. I just returned to Bumthang today and will not be back to Thimphu until after 3-4 days. I have some work here in Bumthang and I might go down to Beleng where I had ordered for some traditional nettle Buendri to be woven. Since I am just 4 hours from the place, I think I will drive over and see how the work is progressing.

    Passu, can you please tell Nawang that I will respond about the posting of the Kolkatta article which I did during the none-fiction writing exercise. I am not sure if he has the first version that was presented during the w/shop or the one that I was requested by the organizers to re-edit post workshop. Please tell him that I will post the edited version once I am back. Please, just remind me - since I am likely to be buried under work upon return.

  9. Hi Anon,

    Regarding the tiger issue, I have some more to say - but I will do that once I am back to Thimphu.
    For now, I would like to take a little rest - after climbing up to 6,000++ Mtrs. in bitter cold photographing Mt. Gangkharpuensum, I am feeling like every bone in my body has gone through some grinding machine.

  10. by the way, i found this article from the hindustan times which might interest you on the bbc claims:

  11. Hi arcibaldo,

    Thanks - I will go and read it.

  12. Dear Yeshey,
    this is a great blog and one of the great things about the internet is that now one can get up-to-date inside information from a fascinating, but "hidden", place like Bhutan.
    On the BBC film: I also condemn the BBC policy. However, in two points one has to be fair:
    1) There are photographs by other sources of those high-altitide tigers, but as far as I know, NO video yet featuring those tigers!
    2) All Bhutanese government sources I am aware of did claim that those tigers were living at altitudes of 2000 - 3000 metres and would use those 3500-4000 metres altitudes just as pathways to get from one valley to the other! The BBC now claims,right or wrong, that there is a breeding population at 3200-3500 metres and perhaps even higher altitudes. This is a totally new claim and something the Bhutan nature conservation officials should realize before they start criticizing the film crew and the BBC natural history unit in general.

    However: one thing is certain - the BBC should have mentioned and appreciated all the research done by Bhutanese and other wildlife conservationists in recent years. They did not so and this is of course a really unsound and unprofessional behaviour!

    Best regards,

  13. Hi Joerg,

    Thanks for the comment. Over a period of time, the BBC has removed some images that were originally posted by them - prior to the uproar we kicked up on the false claims made by them. The earlier video clips show a member of the team faking a cry on the video and claiming "the tigers are sighted at this altitude for the first time". I am upset because they claimed it as a "first sighting" and not a first record on video. If they had originally said that it was the first record on video, although it makes no sense to make such a claim, I would have accepted. But when the Bhutanese wrote to them, they changed their version to “first record of a lactating female tiger” which later on changed to “first record on video”.

    I come from a village in Central Bhutan called "Tama" - meaning, "mother tiger". The village was so named because there was a breeding couple in that area. Therefore, tigers in Bhutan - at higher altitude than where they were traditionally believed to be - has always existed - perhaps for centuries. Therefore, it is also not true that the tigers used Bhutan as a migratory route.