The political will to save the species has been abysmal despite its drastic decline in numbers
The Guardian, Thursday 16 December 2010
In your news report from the International Tiger Forum, the director general of WWF says: "Unless we take drastic action, there will be no tigers left by the next [Chinese] year of the tiger in 2022".
This should concern the Chinese community worldwide, as it is their demand for potions made from tiger parts that is hastening the decline of our largest cat species. If the Dalai Lama can tell his people in India and Tibet to disassociate themselves from tiger poaching, trading and consumption, so can the Chinese and Taiwanese governments.
At the first global tiger forum in India 15 years ago, I spoke about the illegal trade in tiger parts. Your article says: "Without a reduction in the demand for tiger products… efforts to protect habitat could come to nothing." This is true. However, much more needs to be done. As you say, we need core areas and cross-boundary protected areas, but also biological corridors, connecting forest routes between protected areas. All of these must be made inviolate.
Without this, and much tougher protection, national parks will be unable to ensure genetic diversity and sufficient habitat for tigers to survive. Anti-poaching should be placed on a "war footing" with legal enforcement to prevent poaching for Chinese palates.
Until now the political will to save the species in most states with tiger ranges has been abysmal. It has even lapsed in India. China is the worst offender, with others not far behind. Development projects and unchecked commercial exploitation threaten irreplaceable wild habitats, wherein a healthy tiger population also signifies a healthy water supply (which can improve agricultural productivity in surrounding areas) and an abundance of other flora and fauna.
The decline of the species is linked to this unchecked development as much as poaching. The two are inextricably linked.
The president of the World Bank – mentioned in your article as being behind the latest tiger forum – could have prevented the loss of many tigers by not implementing ill-conceived development projects in and around irreplaceable and ancient forests in tiger-range states. He and the Russian prime minister have addressed the "97% decline in tigers in the wild over a century" by hosting the forum, but we now need more than talk. Tough action is required.
Since 1987, my organisation has helped pitifully paid but courageous forest guards (who often end their days maimed by poachers or being killed on duty), provided anti-poaching mobility, and supported stoical scientists and conservationists who are active around many national parks.
My recent study into India's Western Ghats looked at biological corridors and concluded that, if the international and Indian community quickly bought up contiguous land to protect national parks from developers, we could save the last remaining tigers in India from extinction. With that plus stricter anti-poaching measures, it can be done.
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
Caring for cats – Ending the trade
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