Tigers can provide roaring start to action on biodiversity | WWF

Tigers can provide roaring start to action on biodiversity

Posted on
26 October 2010
Nagoya, Japan – As nations this week discuss new targets for halting biodiversity loss, WWF today announced that one of the world’s most iconic species, the tiger, should be the first hallmark of many government’s efforts to conserve nature.

Many of the same governments gathering in Japan this week at the meeting of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will meet again next month at the Tiger Summit, to be held from 21-24 November in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Tiger Summit will be their first major opportunity to act on the targets agreed at the biodiversity meeting this week. Leaders at the Tiger Summit are expected to push forward on a plan to double wild tiger numbers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022.

“As an indicator species for forests rich in biodiversity throughout Asia and the Russian Far East, tigers are on the frontline of the impact of biodiversity loss,” said Mike Baltzer, Head of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “The Tiger Summit will be the first test for leaders to take action and make good on their pledges to arrest the decline in biodiversity.”

“If we save this beautiful and powerful icon of the forest, we can save a lot of important biodiversity. Strong action taken here in Nagoya will give us the momentum to stand strong for tigers at next month’s meeting and beyond.”

The CBD meeting comes during both the UN Year of Biodiversity and the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar.

“Protecting the forest areas in the 13 countries where tigers are still found will also be a test in itself,” stated Baltzer. “With Russia and most of the Asian economies on the rise, we must ensure they use their vast resources to protect their most iconic symbol of nature. Their increasing economic might means there are a vast amount of resources and knowledge available to save the tiger, and with concerted action everyone gains – people, economies and nature.”

Just over 100 years ago, there were 100,000 tigers in the wild, with its nine subspecies roaming as far west as the Caspian Sea and as far east as the island of Bali in Indonesia.

Today, with 93 percent of it former habitat lost, the tiger numbers as few as 3,200, with three subspecies already extinct and the remaining six hanging on in increasingly small pockets of habitat in 13 countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.

In the weeks leading up to the Tiger Summit, WWF will outline its plan to support the global effort for tiger recovery. The plan focuses on protecting the last refuges for tigers and maintaining the larger landscapes throughout the tiger’s range. It also tackles the drivers of the tiger’s steep decline, which include poaching and the lucrative illegal trade in skins and body parts, habitat loss, conflict with humans, and prey loss.

The Tiger Summit comes after tiger range countries met in Indonesia in July and presented individual national plans to protect tigers. Those plans make up a Global Tiger Recovery Programme – essentially an overarching plan to double the number of tigers in the wild – which will then be approved at the Tiger Summit next month.

The Bali meeting was a follow up to earlier governmental meetings on tiger conservation. The first in Kathmandu, Nepal in October 2009, recommended a series of 15 global actions that need to be taken to change the trajectory of tigers from extinction to recovery, as well as commitments from several tiger range countries. The Kathmandu meeting was followed by the first Asian ministerial conference on tiger conservation held in Hua Hin, Thailand in January 2010, and which adopted the goal of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.

Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris).
© Adam OSWELL / WWF