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Putting a Price on the Future of Tigers

Without funds and commitment, all efforts wasted

The PloS Biology Journal, a respected scientific journal, published a paper last week entitled Bringing the Tiger Back from the Brink - the Six Percent Solution, which presents a powerful case for the need to refocus efforts on the protection of the last remaining strongholds for the tiger. The paper is based on a study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and focuses on how much it will cost to stop tigers from becoming extinct. WWF helped to provide data for the study and supports the paper’s conclusion that there is a need to rebalance conservation efforts.

The study highlights the need to restore the balance of tiger conservation investment to focus on the protection of the last remaining breeding sites used by tigers.  For too long now, good protection and monitoring of the most important living areas for tigers has been neglected, and the global population has suffered severely because of the lack of protection in these sites. Protection of core tiger sites and other potential protected areas is fundamentally necessary to the future survival of the wild tiger. The paper calls for the urgent and immediate injection of approximately 35 million additional dollars per year to match the funding already provided by governments, donors and NGOs to protect tigers.

“The situation for the wild tiger is very serious now and we can expect to lose the tiger throughout much of its range before the next Year of the Tiger in 2022 if we do not urgently step up action to protect it,” said Dr Barney Long, manager of WWF’s tiger program. “Stopping the extinction of the wild tiger, is unfortunately, the greatest concern we face at this moment and therefore protection of the core sites and potential core sites is the most critical action required now. So the emphasis must be there as this paper suggests.”

WWF’s approach

WWF’s goal is to secure the tiger’s future and double its population within the next 12 years. As such, WWF believes that several actions are needed to protect tigers, including protecting critical areas, keeping wider landscapes intact, and eliminating the illegal trade in wild tigers as well as demand for them.  Investing in core breeding sites alone, as the paper suggests, could lead to tigers becoming trapped in small core areas and the chance for expansion gone forever.

“We need to ensure the wider landscape is intact with adequate prey for tigers to survive. Action has to be taken now as habitats once lost will never be returned.  While addressing demand issues is a much longer term solution, as it may take perhaps 20 or more years to change behavior enough to have an impact, we have to start now if we ever hope to achieve it,” said Long.

Funds are necessary for a wider spectrum of tiger conservation work. The process to decide the actions and the balance of the investments is underway culminating in a heads of government Tiger Summit in Russia in November this year.

“Hopefully the funds and commitments to protection of the last tiger stands will be found, otherwise all other efforts will be wasted,” Long added.

The wild tiger population has fallen probably from around 5,000 in 1998, the last Year of the Tiger, to as few as 3,200 today. Given that projection, tigers could disappear from the wild in the next 10 years. Some countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam may have already lost their wild breeding populations.