Jan 26

 

Tiger populations could increase to more than 10,000 – three times the current number – if Asia’s reserves were managed as large-scale areas that allowed movement between breeding sites, according to a new study in Conservation Letters

Photo of a male Sumatran tiger

Commitment to doubling tiger numbers 

A series of tiger conservation measures were approved at last year’s ‘Tiger Summit’ in Russia to double the wild tiger population by 2022, including a ban on construction in breeding places and a crackdown on poaching by using global police agency Interpol and the United Nations. 

But the study argues that this commitment to double tiger numbers is not only possible, but can be exceeded if global efforts are made to preserve tiger breeding areas and create habitat corridors. 

Some 20 priority tiger conservation landscapes with the highest probability of survival could support more than 10,500 tigers, including about 3,400 breeding females, the study said. 

“We absolutely need to stop the bleeding, the poaching of tigers and their prey in core breeding areas, but we need to go much further and secure larger tiger landscapes before it is too late,” said Eric Dinerston, Chief Scientist at WWF and one of the study’s authors.

Photo of a Siberian tiger

Maintaining tiger habitat corridors

The authors also looked at historical examples to prove that a doubling or tripling is possible using large landscapes. Tiger numbers in the jungles of lowland Nepal, for example, crashed during civil conflict between 2002 and 2006. But tigers did not disappear as forest corridors between reserves in Nepal and India likely allowed for replenishment from India. 

In contrast, tigers disappeared from India’s Sariska and Panna reserves in 2005 and 2009 because of poaching, with natural replenishment impossible as the reserves had no links to others.

Photo of a juvenile Siberian tiger

Face of biodiversity conservation 

While many tiger habitats are under potential threat from Asian infrastructure projects, estimated by the study to be worth $7.5 trillion over the next decade, preserving broad swathes of land will provide other benefits. 

“Tiger conservation is the face of biodiversity conservation… by saving the tiger we save all the plants and animals that live under the tiger’s umbrella,” said study co-author Dr. John Seidensticker of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

View a slideshow of 88 stunning tiger images on ARKive

To read more on this story, see the WWF article.

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author

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