Sunday marked the opening of the worldwide tiger summit, which brought together high-level representatives from the 13 tiger-habitat countries, including Russia and China, to discuss the best plan to save the tigers. The meeting goes through Wednesday.
Only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, and without help experts say populations will start to go extinct in less than 20 years.
“Here’s a species that’s literally on the brink of extinction,” said Jim Leape, director general of conservation group WWF. “This is the first time that world leaders have come together to focus on saving a single species, and this is a unique opportunity to mobilise the political will that’s required in saving the tiger.” [BBC News]
The working plan includes provisions to decrease poaching and smuggling of the tigers and calls for more protected habitats. Researchers say that if tigers are left alone and provided with enough habitat and prey, the population could double in 12 years.
Of all the tigers left in the world—and there aren’t many—70 percent of them are clustered into lands that make up just 6 percent of the total tiger habitat in the world. Save these spots, scientists say today, and you save the tigers.
In the journal PLoS Biology, a large group of researchers outline why their 6 percent solution could succeed where other conservation attempts have failed. Basically, they say, efforts to save the cat have been ambitious, but too broad. Job one has to be the protection of these 42 small “source sites” in Asia (seen on the map in the slideshow above), that are home to the core population of tigers.
“The long-term goal is to conserve an Asia-wide network of large landscapes where tigers can flourish,” said Nigel Leader-Williams from Cambridge University, one of the scientists on this study. “The immediate priority, however, must be to ensure that the few breeding populations still in existence can be protected and monitored. Without this, all other efforts are bound to fail.” [BBC News]
A growing conflict between Indonesian loggers and the critically endangered Sumatran tiger has incurred a death toll on both sides, with little solution in sight. Environmentalists say that Asian Pulp and Paper (APP), one of the largest paper companies in the world, has destroyed much of the island of Sumatra’s rainforest. The activists argue that the tigers, whose wild population is thought to hover at around 400 but could be as low as 250, have been left without a natural habitat and have increasingly regarded humans for food. Eyes on the Forest, a coalition of 25 environmental organizations, has released a report to back up the allegation.
By overlaying the locations of [human-tiger] conflicts with government maps of pulpwood plantation concessions, Eyes on the Forest found a direct correlation between tiger conflict and the unsustainable forest practices of APP, its holding company Sinar Mas Group, and other associated companies that supply pulpwood to APP’s mills [Wildlife Extra], with 60 percent of the total 245 human-tiger encounters having taken place on land associated with those companies.
The tiger life used to be relatively simple: They stalked around dining on deer or boar or fish or whatever else took their fancy, and took swims when they wanted to cool off. The solitary cats were the masters of their own fates, and when they encountered a stray human they could choose between mauling him and impressing the hell out of him with their majestic, haughty ways.
It’s not so simple anymore. The number of tigers in the wild has declined from more than 100,000 a century ago to about 4,000 left in scattered pockets around Asia today. Developing towns with bursting populations have encroached on tigers’ habitats, reducing both their territory and their prey. The reverence that humans can’t help feeling for the animals has also turned sour, as tigers are hunted by poachers who fuel the black market trade in tiger skins and body parts, many of which end up in traditional Chinese pharmacies.
In response, the World Bank announced yesterday the launch of a Tiger Conservation Initiative that will try to bring wild tigers back from the brink of extinction. Many see it as a last ditch effort to save the big cat.