KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA/ The Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar comes to an end on February 2 having yielded big results for its namesake.
All flooded from an unprecedented swell of public and government support to save tigers in the wild, including a historic global recovery programme.
What the time will bring
If all moves in the correct direction, more than 7000 tigers will be living after 2030, more as double as today. Just 50 Amur tigers are living in China right now and the new conservation strategies will bring him into life again.
The International Tiger Forum, held in St. Petersburg, Russia in November 2010 marked the first time an international summit was convened to focus on a single, non-human species.
The Forum produced the Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP), a collaboration between the 13 countries that still have wild tigers. It has set a goal of doubling wild tigers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.
To reach the goal
“The recovery programme is a big boost for tigers,” said Mike Baltzer, Head of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “But it is only the beginning. We must now join the tiger countries and our partners worldwide to ensure the momentum from the Forum and this past year’s tiger conservation achievements continues. Tigers have already run out of time. The recovery must not lose steam.”
Wild tiger numbers are down to only 3,200, with scattered populations across 13 countries having lost more than 93 percent of their historic range, when at the beginning of the 20th century an estimated of 100,000 tigers roamed across Asia.
As the recovery program takes shape, progress has already been made to save tigers in the wild.
- Korean Pine, a critical tree in the Russian Far East was awarded official protective status, ending its logging in Amur tiger habitat.
- A new wildlife conservation bill was passed in Malaysia, providing significantly higher penalties and mandatory jail time for wildlife crime, with poaching of tigers and trading in their parts now receiving maximum punishment
- India announced it’s 39th tiger reserve (Sahyadri), with another eight new reserves in development
- Indonesia’s Ministry of Forest placed a moratorium on conversion of virgin forest and peat swamp forest on the island of Sumatra for the next two years, thus protecting prime Sumatran tiger habitat
- Cambodia formally designated Selma Forest a protected area, creating a new and vital protected area as part of the Eastern Plains Tiger Landscape Protected Area Complex
- The South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) was established, strengthening anti-poaching and wildlife trade law enforcement efforts in the tiger countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal
“These represent major decisions to save tigers that will go a long way in supporting the recovery programme,“ concluded Baltzer. “Let’s not forget, however, that we need to take the next step and turn Year of the Tiger commitments into success. This year must be the year of action.”
Accomplishments already in 2011
In late January WWF assisted the government of Nepal in the country’s first successful relocation of an injured tiger to a new home in the one of the country’s premier national parks.
In the past week, WWF released a corporate declaration, with internationally known companies such as Hewlett Packard and Tetra Pak affirming their support for tiger conservation, by stating in part that they will “strive, through our business practices, to avoid or minimize, impacts of our natural resource sourcing on tiger habitat, by implementing responsible purchasing policies and, where possible, to improve landscapes for wild tiger populations.”
On Jan. 25, the journal Conservation Letters published a paper by WWF Chief Tiger Scientist Eric Dinerstein and other colleagues and WWF staff concluding that tiger numbers can triple in certain areas if poaching, illegal trade and habit loss are reduced.
The time is now
As the Year of the Tiger gives way to the United Nation’s International Year of Forests, the tiger’s forest habitat will continue to link it to Asian and international biodiversity conservation efforts.
Throughout this year, WWF will be running a Living Forests Campaign that will combine cutting edge science, new perspectives from partners and decades of on-the-ground experience to help address the joint challenge of saving forests and tigers.
“The tiger is an indicator species for healthy forests, and 2011 has already seen strong continuing support for tigers and their habitat,” said Baltzer. “As Year of the Tiger closes, we must redouble our efforts and ensure this magnificent species continues to roar into the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.”