Kathmandu, March 2
A new survey of over a hundred tiger conservation areas, where an estimated 70 per cent of the world’s wild tigers live, found that only 13 per cent of them are able to meet global standards.
At least one-third of them are severely at risk of losing their tigers. Alarmingly, most of these sites are in Southeast Asia, where tigers have suffered the most dramatic decline in the past decade. Reassuringly, two-thirds of the areas surveyed reported fair to strong management. Yet, basic needs such as enforcement against poaching, engaging local communities and managing conflict between people and wildlife remain weak for all areas surveyed.
The survey, driven by 11 leading conservation organisations and tiger range governments that are part of the CA|TS Partnership, is the first and largest rapid assessment of site-based tiger conservation across Asia.
Despite poaching being one of the greatest threats faced by big cats, 85 per cent of the areas surveyed do not have staff capacity to patrol sites effectively, and 61 per cent of the areas in Southeast Asia have very limited anti-poaching enforcement.
“While the findings are discouraging for sites in Southeast Asia, the story is slightly different with Chitwan National Park in Nepal; a pioneering CA|TS (Conservation Assured Tiger Standards) approved site, which has celebrated four years of zero poaching of rhinos since 2011. CNP boasts a viable tiger population with an estimated 120 of Nepal’s 198 tigers. Well-developed governance and management structures bringing together park authorities, Nepali Army and local communities, along with effective trans-boundary relations at the local level have been crucial in facilitating tiger conservation and keeping illegal wildlife trade in check,” says Ghana Gurung, Country Representative of WWF Nepal.
Low investment from governments in Southeast Asia was stated as one reason for the lack of management of these supposedly ‘protected areas’. While 86 per cent of areas in South Asia, Russia and China stated that finances are, or are on the way to being sustainable, in comparison only 35 per cent of areas in Southeast Asia are in a similar position.
“Unless governments commit to sustained investments in the protection of these sites, tiger populations may face the catastrophic decline that they have suffered over the last few decades. This funding is needed urgently, particularly for many sites in Southeast Asia to support recovery of its tiger population,” said Michael Baltzer, chair of the Executive Committee of CA|TS.
Released ahead of World Wildlife Day on 3 March, which this year calls for the protection of big cats, the report acts as a timely reminder of the need to secure the homes of wild tigers and engage local communities, in order to ensure the protection and recovery of this majestic species. Data from this survey forms a baseline that aims to help governments and site managers understand how they are faring against CA|TS, an accreditation system designed to measure and improve the management of tiger conservation areas.
“The results in this report provides a way for countries to make informed decisions in driving tiger conservation forward, helping to lead a sustainable path for parks, people and tigers to all thrive together,” said Sugoto Roy, Coordinator of the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme, IUCN.
A version of this article appears in print on March 03, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.