A study has found that the tiger reserves of Asia could support more than 10,000 wild tigers. This would mean that the commitment made at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit (Nov. 2010) to double the wild tiger population across Asia by 2022 is not only possible but has the potential to be exceeded.
The study, published online January 2011 in Conservation Letters, is the first assessment of the political commitment made by all 13 tiger range countries in St. Petersburg last year.
Currently, as few as 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, scattered over small, isolated pockets across 13 Asian countries. But according to the authors of the study these numbers can increase and be tripled by 2022.
This would require that the existing tiger reserves are managed as large-scale landscapes. Then they could support more than 10,000 wild tigers. Historical examples demonstrate that the existence of habitat corridors facilitates the recovery of wild tiger populations from the effects of poaching, habitat loss, prey depletion and civil conflict. Over the next decade, however, wild tiger populations may come under threat from infrastructure projects in Asia. Therefore conservation and government interventions are essential to ensure that projects consider not only protected areas but also large-scale landscapes, including current and potential forest corridors, to mitigate impact on tiger population. When the 20 priority tiger conservation landscapes would be connected and these corridors maintained, tigers could freely migrate and use these areas more effectively and efficiently. The researchers found that this would support the core breeding reserves and allow the wild tiger population a long-term survival with over 10,500 tigers, including about 3,400 breeding tigresses.
According to one of the leading tiger conservationists and co-author of the study, John Seidensticker: “Tiger conservation is the face of biodiversity conservation and competent sustainable land-use management at the landscape level. By saving the tiger we save all the plants and animals that live under the tiger’s umbrella.”
(Sources: Oryx, April 2011 vol 45 no 2; ScienceDaily, 25.01.2011)