Tiger population across Asia to triple: Study
Bengaluru, Dec 2: Wild tiger populations in key tiger recovery sites across Asia, including in India, have the potential to triple, contributing up to 15 per cent increase in the global tiger population, a new study has found. It, however, said this is possible only if effective efforts in anti-poaching and in stabilising prey base for the predator are maintained.
These are Anamalai-Vazhachal (in Tamil Nadu-Kerala), Sathyamangalam (Tamil Nadu), Balaghat (Madhya Pradesh), Achanakmar (Chattisgarh), western Rajaji and Nandhaur (Uttarakhand), Manas (across Assam-Bhutan) and Valmiki (across Bihar-Nepal).
Currently, these regions support an estimated 62 tigers which could rise to 287 over the next 30-50 years: an increase of more than four times in India alone.
The study, conducted by 49 conservation experts from 10 tiger-range countries, developed site-specific and ecologically realistic targets and timelines for the recovery of tiger populations in 18 tiger recovery sites, identified under WWF's global tiger conservation programme.
"We are at a critical juncture for tiger conservation, where we can bring wild tiger populations back from their devastating decline but concerted effort is needed to reach it. This study has revealed tremendous potential among these sites - although some areas are still lagging behind, particularly in South East Asia, several others are already beginning to experience an increase in wild tigers.
"We know this can only happen when there is strong political will, sustained investments, responsive governance and public support - all critical conditions regardless of which site we are looking at," said Margaret Kinnaird, Leader of WWF's Wildlife Practice.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, both the population and range of wild tigers have been estimated to have shrunk by a devastating 95 per cent, due to rampant poaching and habitat destruction.
Lead author of the study and population ecologist at Panthera, Abishek Harihar said, "Each tiger site is unique and requires intensive efforts based on specific plans that are relevant at the site level. This study has clearly laid out different components of a tiger recovery system, with a special focus on recovery sites - areas with high potential for long-term recovery of wild tiger populations.
"Our assessment serves as a template to guide planning for population recovery in other sites globally and helps to inform more effective, integrated approaches to tiger conservation."
Increased and eventually stable prey populations are a pre-requisite, while comprehensive systems to reduce the risk of human-wildlife conflict are essential for ensuring safe co-existence among the increased wild tiger populations and local communities, which are also projected to grow in population size, the study said.
"The presence of wild tigers represent thriving biodiversity and indicate healthy ecosystems - as apex predators, tigers can only survive with a stable prey base.
"This study affirms the need for tiger-range governments to take a holistic, long-term view towards tiger recovery which must include plans for revival of prey animals and other wildlife at the site-level," said Rajesh Gopal, secretary seneral, Global Tiger Forum (GTF).
The authors of the study, concluded that although the goal to double tiger numbers by 2022 may be ambitious given the limited time frame, it is still possible as long as significant and sustained conservation efforts are taken immediately.
The initiative was started in 2010 at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit. The International Tiger Day 2016 is especially important since it marks the halfway point of Tx2 and a shout-out to governments and countries across the world to review and strengthen its existing efforts to save the animal.
The Tx2 approach looks at doubling the number of tigers in the wild, rather than just saving the animal in each of the countries in which it is present. This strategic focus looks at not only protecting tigers but protecting landscapes including source sites and corridors. It also encourages trans-boundary collaboration between countries for tiger conservation. The Tx2 initiative marks the first time that all tiger range countries have come together to collaborate and work together towards a global goal of protecting this apex predator.
WWF is a major driving force behind the Tx2 campaign and is running a "Thumbs-Up for Tigers" campaign to mark the International Tiger Day 2016. Built around the premise of tiger stripes being unique to each animal, the campaign encourages people to show their support for the animal through social media channels by colouring their thumbs with tiger stripes, each thumb print being unique to every human.
In Delhi, WWF-India is partnering with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and other organizations to organize the "Walk for the Tiger", scheduled to be held at on 29 July 2016 at 7am at the India Gate. Bringing together people from all walks of life and students from schools across Delhi, the walk will build awareness in children about the species and inspire them to undertake simple initiatives in their daily lives for a greener planet.