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How rangers are working to save tigers

A Q&A with Rohit Singh

Rohit Singh - Ranger

Rohit Singh supports ranger and law enforcement work across countries that have wild tigers as part of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. He also serves as president of the Ranger Federation of Asia, an organization that supports those on the frontlines of conservation in Asia and connects them to the world ranger community at large.

WWF: Can you tell us more about Tx2 - the global goal to double the wild tiger numbers by 2022? What is WWF's role?

Rohit Singh: In 2009, we started WWF's global tiger program. This is to support the countries with wild tigers in doubling the world’s wild tiger numbers by 2022. All the governments came together in St. Petersburg in 2010 and committed to doubling global tiger numbers. Our job is to help them to achieve this very ambitious goal.

WWF: With regard to law enforcement and policy change, how are we going to double the global number of wild tigers by 2022?

RS: At the moment, the biggest threat for tiger conservation is poaching. We are losing tigers every day. If we want to double tiger numbers, we need to protect tigers, and we need to improve our protection system. Protection can only be improved if we have good policies in place, and good on-ground support for rangers in place.

WWF: How can we help countries prevent all poaching of tigers and other iconic animals?

RS: When we started talking about zero poaching, people said, “No, it’s impossible. You cannot have zero-poaching in your protected area.” But Nepal has proved it—that you can have zero-poaching.

We had a symposium two years back in Nepal where we discussed zero poaching. All the partners from all over Asia came together—NGOs, governments—and discussed how zero poaching can be modeled and replicated in other countries. In that symposium, we brought all the best practices together in the form of a zero-poaching toolkit.

The Zero Poaching Toolkit brings all those best practices under six pillars, so you put equal emphasis on each pillar if you want to minimize poaching.

Tiger (Panthera tigris), Bandhavgarh National Park, India.

WWF: What are the six pillars?

RS: The first pillar is assessments. What’s the status of your protected area? The second is the technology. Nowadays, you need the best technology to protect animals.

Third is communities. If the people living around your protected area are not supporting you, then you cannot achieve zero poaching. Then you need to have the right capacity. There’s not one agency that can achieve zero poaching because it’s a multidimensional crime, wildlife crime. So you need to involve all relevant agencies like the police, military.

The fifth pillar is prosecution. If your rangers are arresting poachers, but poachers are released after two days, then it’s not going to help. And finally, co-operation. This is key to success – coordinated work across areas, departments and borders.

WWF: Nepal achieved zero poaching. Are any other countries or landscapes working toward that goal?

RS: Nepal is, of course, the benchmark. In some countries, we are picking sites to start zero poaching. In some countries, we are picking landscapes. In some countries, we’re picking the entire country. It depends on the situation. We have already started with Bhutan. We’re going to have the first national zero-poaching meeting in Bhutan in September where we’re going to discuss the gaps under each of these pillars to achieve zero poaching. Then we are moving forward in India, and also in Indonesia.

WWF: You helped conduct a survey on rangers. What does it cover and why is the information important?

Rohit: We hear stories all the time from rangers that they do not have resources. So how do we quantify this information? We started a survey a year ago in Asia with countries that have wild tigers. We got some really good data about their lack of training and equipment. I would say the data is not surprising. We know all these things, but this is the first time we can quantify, we can validate the information which we have been hearing from rangers.

The survey talks about rangers’ capacity. It talks about equipment. It talks about their motivation factors, and, most importantly, about their life-threatening situations. We have recently done the survey in Africa, and are going to repeat it in Latin America also.

The purpose of this survey is to give a snapshot of what is happening with rangers. Our ultimate goal is to do a much more in-depth survey, and ultimately use it to bring policy changes. National governments have to take the initiative. We need to provide them with good, concrete, scientific data, and advocate for the policy changes that can improve ranger conditions.

WWF: Why is improving working conditions for rangers vital to the future of wildlife?

RS: Our future depends on the future of wildlife and forests. The future of wildlife and forests depends on rangers. And if we do not adequately support rangers, we’re going to lose biodiversity, our wildlife, and forests.