December 1, 2016

WWF wants to Double the number of wild Tigers by 2022

WWF wants to Double the number of wild Tigers by 2022

The World Wide Fund for Nature wants to double the number of wild tigers by 2022. Photo Credit: WWF

It’s a poignant irony: one of the world’s most endangered species is also one of its mightiest. Tigers have fallen on hard times throughout their ranges across Asia with only a few thousand of them left in the wild from Siberia to India to Malaysia. At every place where numerous tigers once roamed, only a few now survive.

In another poignant irony far more tigers are kept at zoos and so-called tiger farms (where they are bred constantly) than are left in the wild. To wit: no more than 4,000 wild tigers are left in the world, whereas at least twice as many tigers are kept at the more than 200 tiger farms across the region.

Vets handle a newborn captive tiger cub. Photo Credit: WWF

Vets handle a newborn captive tiger cub. Photo Credit: WWF

Yet if the World Wide Fund for Nature has its way, the number of wild tigers will have doubled by 2022 (the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar).

Sound ambitious? Perhaps. But it’s doable.

“We’re working with TRAFFIC, the world’s leading wildlife trade monitoring network, to help protect wild tigers from poaching and illegal trade,” WWF explains. “For example, by training and equipping anti-poaching teams, severing trade networks and reducing demand for tiger products.”

The conservationist group also wants to have all tiger farms closed and a comprehensive ban imposed on all tiger products, especially in China, the ground zero for medicinal and decorative products made from tiger parts. In tandem, WWF wants to disrupt the trade routes of wildlife traffickers in countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam; boost the monitoring of wildlife markets in the region; and see traffickers brought to justice.

Some of it is easier said than done, however. Throughout Asia, wild tigers continue to face a variety of dangers to their continued existence from poaching to habitat loss. The latter especially threatens the long-term survival of wild tigers by robbing them of their natural habitats.

“The global collaboration [effort] to double wild tigers has transformed tiger conservation and given the species a real chance of survival, but the scale of Asia’s infrastructure plans could destroy all the recent gains as well as hopes for the future of wild tigers,” explains Mike Baltzer, leader of WWF’s Tiger’s Alive Initiative. “Infrastructure is central to Asia’s development, but we need to ensure it is sustainable and does not come at the expense of tigers and tiger landscapes,” the conservationist adds.

A captive Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) stares at the camera. Photo Credit: WWF

A captive Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) stares at the camera. Photo Credit: WWF

In other words, rampant economic development, unless it is managed well, poses an existential threat to wild tigers. “With massive infrastructure plans threatening all tiger landscapes and risking recent gains in tiger conservation, Asian governments must adopt a sustainable approach to infrastructure planning and construction or drive tigers toward extinction,” WWF observes.

“Around 11,000 kilometres of roads and railways are on the drawing board, along with new canals, oil and gas pipelines, and power lines,” the nonprofit elucidates. “Part of a projected US$8 trillion in projected infrastructure spending across Asia from 2012 through 2020, this infrastructure would cut through every existing tiger habitat, increasing habitat fragmentation, poaching and conflict with communities.”

WWF has called on all states with tiger ranges, including Malaysia, to incorporate the protection of tigers and tiger landscapes into the design of new infrastructure planning and development. These countries “must identify critical tiger habitats and designate them off limits to infrastructure in future, while preserving corridors that are essential to tiger movement,” the nonprofit says.

“Tigers are part of the cultural fabric of Asia and of our shared global heritage and represent vast areas of natural habitat that are critical to the well-being of millions of people in Asia,” Baltzer notes. “Governments should now use tigers and the health of their landscapes as a key indicator of the quality of their economic and development plans. If they do, their people and their tigers will benefit.”

Agreed.

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