Tiger Summit anniversary elicits WWF call for elevated action to end poaching
The will shown by the leaders of the tiger range governments at the Tiger Summit now needs to be aimed at solving the problem of poaching. While many other components of the plan launched at the Summit are more complicated, putting an end to poaching of the last remaining populations of tigers and their prey requires direct action to make national parks, protected areas and tiger reserves effective refuges for tigers against poachers.
The International Tiger Forum, aka the Tiger Summit, hosted by Russian Prime Minister Putin in St. Petersburg and attended by world leaders a year ago, set out an ambitious agenda of reversing the downturn. The Summit’s main outcome was an agreement to double tiger numbers by 2022 (Tx2) through the Global Tiger Recovery Programme, a document endorsed by all 13 of the countries that currently have wild tiger populations.
“Last November marked a milestone in the race to save the tiger from disappearing in the very near future,” stated Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “While the governments’ energy and commitment is to be commended, the main cause of the decline, poaching, continues to devastate tiger numbers, and is an issue we must address with renewed vigour. Without an end to poaching, we will never get on the path of recovery. We need an elevation of action aimed directly towards zero poaching now if we are to reach the goal of doubling the number of tigers”.
Lack of serious anti-poaching deterrents
Recent high profile stories demonstrate that poaching is still a crime without serious deterrents. In October on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a tiger trader caught with a skin he intended to sell received only a small fine and less than half the maximum prison sentence allowable under law after being convicted. Just a few weeks later in China, an Amur (Siberian) tiger, already a rare presence in country’s border with the Russian Far East, was killed after being caught in an illegal snare.
“These incidences highlight the tiger’s still precarious position, and the first step is to stop tiger killings at their source,” said Craig Bruce, Protected Area and Enforcement Specialist for the WWF Tigers Alive Initiative. “Many of the protected areas that we rely on to provide refuge to tigers are poorly managed and poorly resourced. A very simple and immediate strategy is to ensure that these areas provide the refuge for which they were created. Improving their management is the most straightforward part of tiger conservation, but it requires the will of the tiger countries.”
WWF calls for concrete action to build the capacity of the rangers, officials and local communities that are putting their lives on the line every day protecting tigers.
“Ideally we need to have a complete end to poaching,” said Baltzer. “Criminal networks are feasting off these amazing natural assets and icons of the wild, and with their killing methods growing and becoming more sophisticated, this task will only grow more and more difficult. We must act now.”
Stamping out poaching
Though halting poaching of tigers at their source is the immediate concern, efforts are required to reduce the demand for tigers and their parts that is presently fuelling the poaching. A WWF and TRAFFIC workshop held in Hong Kong this week brought together creative experts from NGOs, universities, governments and the media to address the issue, and seek new solutions for the growing appetite for tigers in Asia.
While setting a spark for a zero poaching future is the most immediate priority, some progress has been made since the Summit. The announcement earlier this month by INTERPOL of the formation of Project Predator, a consortium of international agencies and governments uniting police, customs and wildlife officials to stop tiger poaching and trafficking represents just one of many initiatives ignited across the world by the Summit and the dedication shown by the leaders at the meeting.
WWF is committed to halting the poaching of tigers and their prey. This year it has been working with partners to find better ways to improve the effectiveness of ranger patrols through the development of law enforcement monitoring systems across Asia, training teams in the latest methods, including the MSTRiPES and MIST programmes.
As these programmes develop towards the end of the year and throughout 2012, their integration into current and emerging anti-poaching efforts will be vital to reduce the killing and turn tiger numbers around.