WWF’s Year of the Tiger campaign

WWF used the opportunity of the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar to run an 18-month campaign to focus attention on the plight of the tiger – numbers of tigers have been almost halved since the previous Year of the Tiger in 1998. The campaign’s main aim to gain commitment by all 13 tiger range states to double tiger numbers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022 was agreed at the St Petersburg International Tiger Conservation Forum. Other aims achieved included specific conservation actions, and a rebranding of tiger conservation to include wider values for people and the environment. The Summit also produced the Global Tiger Recovery Programme, bringing together all 13 tiger range states and the international community in the first unified plan to halt the tiger’s decline.

Protecting tigers and their habitats

During the Year of the Tiger, new protected areas (PAs) totalling approx 2 million hectares were announced by Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and Nepal. New national tiger action plans were announced by Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand. Bhutan created a tiger conservation fund to compensate for livestock killed by tigers to reduce humanwildlife conflict. India and Indonesia also announced measures to reduce such conflict. In addition, China and Russia agreed to establish a transboundary PA network for the Amur tiger, and Russia has introduced a ban on the logging of Korean pine to protect tiger habitat.

Stopping the tiger trade

Important commitments were announced to address the illegal tiger trade and benefit other species. The South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) was established, with WWF and TRAFFIC support, to strengthen wildlife trade law enforcement efforts in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. And CITES, INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, World Bank and World Customs Organisation agreed to establish the International Consortium for Combating Wildlife Crime. In the field, a major figure in Vietnam’s illegal tiger trade was fined US$70,000 and jailed for three years. And a suspected tiger smuggler has been arrested in West Sumatra, Indonesia, with the skin of a tiger believed to have been poisoned.

India’s tigers increase

New figures on the population of tigers in India – which holds half the world’s tigers – estimates an increase in tigers from 1,411 counted in the last census in 2007, to 1,706. Discounting tigers from areas not previously included in the count, there is a possible increase of up to 225 tigers. These figures indicate the importance of strong protection for core tiger habitat, and linking areas, plus effective ‘tiger friendly’ management in surrounding areas, and that with the right conditions tigers can recover. The new tiger numbers were released by the Government of India at the International Conference on Tiger Conservation in New Delhi in March, which was a follow up to the Tiger Summit in St Petersburg last November.

A roaring communications success…

With the core message ‘save the tiger and so much more’, WWF’s Tigers Alive campaign combined field work and high level advocacy with the tiger range states, together with extensive use of new and social media, celebrity engagement, a Youth Summit, stunts and huge media coverage throughout the world to hugely increase awareness of the plight of the tiger and mobilize effective conservation action. An estimated 12% of all mentions of WWF in the media during the Year of the Tiger concerned the tiger campaign. In all, hundreds of thousands of people signed onto WWF’s e-petitions, and visited WWF web sites, especially in China, India, Indonesia, Germany and UK.

Beyond the campaign

While celebrating the many campaign achievements – in protecting tigers and their habitat, halting trade and building political will, in communications outreach and mobilisation of people and funding – the emphasis now is to ensure the promises are fulfilled. New commitments will also be mobilised, building on the political momentum that has been generated – all with the purpose of helping ensure tiger numbers can be doubled by 2022. An opportunity with the UN Year of Forests in 2011 is to show the linkages between tigers and forests, and that by protecting tigers and their various forest habitats, this also protects a huge range of other species and the environmental services provided by these forests to people.