Study: Tiger habitat down from just a decade ago
20 Jul 2006
Gland, Switzerland/Washington, DC – The most comprehensive scientific study of tiger habitats ever done finds that the big cats reside in 40 percent less habitat than they were thought to a decade ago. The tigers now occupy just 7 per cent of their historic range.
This landmark study, produced by some of the world’s leading tiger scientists at WWF, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park and Save The Tiger Fund, calls for specific international actions to safeguard remaining populations.
The study — Setting Priorities for the Conservation and Recovery of the World’s Tigers 2005-2015 — finds that conservation efforts, such as protection from poaching, preservation of prey species and preservation of tigers’ natural habitat, have resulted in some populations remaining stable and even increasing. But it concludes that long-term success is only achieved where there is a broad landscape-level conservation vision with buy-in from stakeholders.
“This report documents a low-water mark for tigers and charts a way forward to reverse the tide,” said John Robinson of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“We can save tigers forever. However, tiger conservation requires commitment from local partners, governments and international donors, along with effective, science-based conservation efforts to bring the species back to all parts of its biological range.”
Synthesizing land-use information, maps of human influence and on-the-ground evidence of tigers, the study identifies 76 “tiger conservation landscapes” – places that have the best chance of supporting viable tiger populations into the future. Large carnivore populations like tigers are highly vulnerable to extinction in small and isolated reserves. Half of the 76 landscapes can still support 100 tigers or more, providing excellent opportunities for recovery of wild tiger populations. The largest tiger landscapes exist in the Russian Far East and India. Southeast Asia also holds promise to sustain healthy tiger populations although many areas have lost tigers over the last ten years.
“As tiger range spans borders, so must tiger conservation,” said Eric Dinerstein, Chief Scientist at WWF-US. “Asia’s economic growth must not come at the expense of tiger habitat and the natural capital it protects.”
The group’s key conclusion from the study is that to safeguard remaining tigers, increased protection of the 20 highest priority tiger conservation landscapes is required. The group also stands ready to support the 13 countries with tigers in a regional effort to save the species. The report’s authors suggest that the heads of state of those countries convene a “tiger summit” to elevate tiger conservation on their countries’ agendas.
"Saving wild tigers requires tiger range countries to work together,” said Mahendra Shrestha, Director of National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Save The Tiger Fund.
“We have learned many important lessons over the last ten years and this study provides a blueprint for scientists and the countries that hold the key for the tigers’ survival.”
In addition to preserving tiger habitat, conservation groups warn that it is critical to also address poaching of tigers. Groups say authorities must curb the demand for the skins and parts of tigers and other Asian big cats and strengthen enforcement efforts along trade routes, in transit markets and markets in Asia.
• The study was funded by Save The Tiger Fund, a partnership between the ExxonMobil Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, along with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the UN Foundation. It was written by scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF and the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park.
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