Three Triumphs For Tigers
National Geographic cites a rare trio of conservation success stories for one of the world’s most endangered species, tigers. Three nations stand out which have shown strong government initiatives towards implementing steps to protect their tiger populations. Asia Programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Executive Director Joe Walston commended India, Thailand, and Russia for their tiger conservation efforts.
In spite of being a flagship species for conservation, tigers remain endangered with their diminishing habitats worldwide. WWF cites poaching, habitat loss, human wildlife conflict, and climate change as major factors that threaten tigers’ existence. National Geographic reports that there are only six remaining subspecies of tiger left in 13 Asian countries where they live. Their habitats in remain limited as their historic range has been reduced by a dramatic 93%. Wild tiger populations have been reduced by a staggering 97% in over a century, WWF reports.
India’s dedication to enact conservation countermeasures to poaching bore fruit as the number of tigers increased in its national parks. The government implemented stricter patrols against poaching, the primary threat against tigers according to WWF. Heightened surveillance of key areas complemented anti-poaching patrols and helped in cracking down against illegal hunters. The Indian government also increased scientific monitoring of remaining individuals taking other factors that might threaten the tiger population aside from illegal hunters. Steps were also taken to minimize human wildlife conflict in the area thanks to residents’ voluntary relocation away from tiger habitats. As a result, tiger populations have recovered particularly in India’s Nagarahole and Bandipur National parks where they have reached saturation point of their habitats.
Likewise, Russia has cracked down on poachers and illegal hunters targeting tigers. The government is currently working on a new law that will make it harder for poachers to escape through a legal loophole, after failing to escape capture and arrest. Previously, illegal wildlife trade and traffic activities of endangered animals like tigers were regarded as merely a civil crime. These included transport, sale, and possession of endangered species. The new law will make these illegal wildlife trade and traffic activities a criminal offense, taking away poachers’ legally accepted excuse that they have found endangered species already dead.
Another key conservation effort by the Russian government is its plans for creating a new corridor that would link tiger breeding hot-spots in Russia and China. The corridor, called the Central Ussuri Wildlife refuge, will allow for a safer passage of tigers for breeding and interaction purposes. Waltson says this will encourage larger, more robust, and genetically healthy populations.
Thailand has seen a breakthrough in anti-poaching efforts as well, particularly in its Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary by sentencing the convicted leaders of a poaching ring up to five years in prison last year. The prison sentences were the most severe handed down to convicted poachers in the country’s history. According to Nat Geo, there have been no known poaching incidents of either tiger or elephants in the park since. The government’s willingness to crack down hard on convicted poachers is backed by its initiative to increase and improve surveillance efforts, hiring 60 new rangers to protect its endangered species populations.
Dr Barney Long, an expert on Asian species, says in the WWF page on tigers:
“Saving tigers is simple. All they need is enough prey, space and protection. The difficult part is securing unswerving long-term commitment from the world to save this species.”
These conservation success stories may be far from the ideal happy ending most conservationists and environmentalists would like to hear – healthy populations worldwide, guaranteed protection against illegal wildlife traffic and trade, restored and thriving habitats. But they are a big encouragement and inspiration to the world that sincere government commitment is a key factor to the success of conservation efforts and will make a difference in saving our planet’s endangered species.
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