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New WWF report unveils the unseen ben­e­fits of sav­ing wild tigers

pub­lished 27 Novem­ber 2017 | mod­i­fied 27 Novem­ber 2017

Beyond the stripes, WWF reportMoney invested by gov­ern­ments, aid agen­cies and funds raised by sup­port­ers across the globe to save wild tigers have unseen ben­e­fits for Asia’s wildlife and mil­lions of peo­ple, accord­ing to a new WWF report — Beyond the Stripes: Save tigers, save so much more.

Tiger land­scapes — which range from the world’s largest man­grove forests in the Sun­dar­bans, to tem­per­ate forests in the snowy moun­tains of Bhutan — over­lap with globally-​important ecosys­tems, many of which are part of Asia’s last wilder­ness. These biodiversity-​rich areas har­bour a wealth of crit­i­cally impor­tant goods and ser­vices that mil­lions of peo­ple rely on, from mit­i­gat­ing cli­mate change and safe­guard­ing fresh­wa­ter to reduc­ing the impact of nat­ural dis­as­ters and improv­ing the health of local people.

The report high­lights that secur­ing tiger land­scapes could help pro­tect at least nine major water­sheds, which reg­u­late and pro­vide fresh­wa­ter for up to 830 mil­lion peo­ple in Asia, includ­ing in urban areas across India, Malaysia and Thai­land. Sim­i­larly, safe­guard­ing tiger land­scapes could, in turn, pro­tect the last remain­ing forests crit­i­cal for car­bon seques­tra­tion, help­ing to mit­i­gate cli­mate change.

Unseen Benefits from TigersUnseen Ben­e­fits from Tigers info­graphic.
Credit WWF

Every dol­lar invested in sav­ing the wild tiger also helps save many threat­ened species, and ecosys­tem ser­vices that are crit­i­cal to mil­lions of people.

Michael Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tigers Alive.

Pro­tect­ing the vast land­scapes where tigers thrive helps to reg­u­late fresh­wa­ter, reduce the impacts of cli­mate change and pro­vide a source of clean air, med­i­c­i­nal plants, jobs, and so much more,” adds Baltzer.

Yet, wild tigers are endan­gered, and their habi­tats are threat­ened; hav­ing lost 95 per cent of their global range, the cats are now con­fined to frag­mented pop­u­la­tions in Asia’s sur­viv­ing for­est habi­tats. Even in the remain­ing range where tigers roam, close to half (43 per cent) of the present suit­able tiger habi­tat could soon be lost to unsus­tain­able agri­cul­ture expan­sion and urban­iza­tion, the report warns. There­fore the Global Tiger Recov­ery Pro­gram must become suc­cess­ful, and the effort to dou­ble the global wild tiger pop­u­la­tion by 2022 (TX2) as well.

For­est loss con­tin­ues at an alarm­ing rate in tiger range states. Malaysia and Indone­sia are among the world’s lead­ing pro­duc­ers of car­bon emis­sions linked to for­est degra­da­tion. If such trends per­sist, more key tiger land­scapes could switch from absorb­ing car­bon to becom­ing net car­bon emit­ters. In Suma­tra alone, the only place in the world where tigers, orang­utans and rhi­nos are found in the same habi­tat, defor­esta­tion has reduced nat­ural for­est cover by more than 50 per cent in the past three decades.

The suc­cess of pro­tect­ing wild tigers is a per­fect indi­ca­tor for Asia’s sus­tain­able devel­op­ment. With Asia’s rapid eco­nomic expan­sion, pri­or­i­tiz­ing tiger con­ser­va­tion will sig­nif­i­cantly aid in secur­ing nat­ural cap­i­tal that is nec­es­sary to meet the region’s sus­tain­able devel­op­ment goals,” said Baltzer. “Pro­tect­ing tiger land­scapes achieves a win-​win for tigers, and for our future gen­er­a­tions. But if we fail to save wild tigers, we may fail to save much more.”

Pignose purple frogAs an apex preda­tor, tigers need vast land­scapes to thrive, shar­ing their home with many other endan­gered species, such as the Asian ele­phant, leop­ard, and orang­utan. Pro­tect­ing the tiger’s habi­tat thus helps to pro­tect other threat­ened wildlife, includ­ing endan­gered but lesser known species that would oth­er­wise receive lit­tle sup­port — such as the pig-​nose frog that spends most of its life under­ground and is clas­si­fied as Endan­gered by the Red List of Threat­ened Species, and is found only in the moun­tain­ous West­ern Ghats of India, where tigers have helped to spear­head the pro­tec­tion of nat­ural sites.

(Source: WWF media release, 27.11.2017)

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Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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