It is a fact, that current approaches to tiger conservation are not slowing the decline in global tiger numbers, according the authors of a recently published article in PloS Biology. They propose an adjusted and feasible approach to stop the decline and
achieve a viable tiger population in so called “source sites”. The immediate priority must be to ensure the last remaining breeding populations are protected and continuously monitored, because fewer that 3,500 animals now live in the wild, occupying less than 7% of their historical range. The pragmatic strategy the researchers suggest focuses on protection of the tiger in the “source sites”, in the first place. Source sites are defined as areas, which have the potential to maintain >25 breeding females and are embedded in a larger landscape with the potential to sustain even more breeding females, and should have an existing conservation infrastructure with a legal mandate for protection. 42 of these sites have been identified, and they contain almost 70% of all remaining wild tigers. Nevertheless, these source sites altogether cover less than 0.5% of the tigers historical range and just 6% of even their current distribution. It is clear that the source sites have the best potential to stop the decline in tiger numbers, however, even these sites have depressed tiger populations. When the population at source sites recover this would result in a 70% increase in the world’s tiger population.
The efforts to protect the tigers at the source sites must include increased law enforcement regarding tigers and their prey, biological and law enforcement monitoring, and where appropriate, community engagement, information networks, and trade monitoring. The authors assessed the cost of the measures, and conclude that actively protecting tigers at source sites is feasible, and already has led to successes in many reserves across India between 1974 and 1986.
Therefore, leaders of 13 tiger range states and others attending the most significant meeting ever concerning tiger conservation — the Tiger Summit, which will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia, in November 2010 -, will be asked to commit to substantive measures to prevent the extinction of the world’s last tiger populations. And they will be reminded that protection at the source sites should be supported by conservation of an Asian-wide network of large, tiger-permeable landscapes in the long run. (Source: PloS Biology, 14.09.2010)