New York -- From the Russian Far East to the southern tip of Sumatra, tigers have declined by nearly 95 percent in the last 100 years. Today, perhaps fewer than 6,000 remain in the wild.
As a result of the alarming trend, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will unveil a new strategy for conserving tigers at the Zoological Society of London symposium, "Tigers 2000." The meeting, scheduled for February 20-21, will bring together many of the world's top tiger experts.
The new WWF/WCS strategy, entitled "A Framework for Identifying High Priority Areas and Actions for the Conservation of Tigers in the Wild," gives the first comprehensive "snapshot" of what we know about where tigers still roam across all the different habitats in their range.
"Building on this snapshot, we hightlight a new approach for setting priorities among wild tiger populations based on recognizing the value of tigers as top predators crucial for the maintenance of the ecosystems in which they occur," said WWF Chief Scientist Dr. Eric Dinerstein.
With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund, this joint analysis by WCS and WWF identifies the top 25 priority areas where tigers have the best chance for long-term survival out of the 160 habitats where they occur. These include the tall grasslands of Nepal, Bhutan and India, the boreal forests of the Russian Far East, and the diverse forests of Indochina.
"The tiger framework is a first step in addressing a critical problem," said Dr. John Robinson, the vice president for international programs at WCS. "And, it identifies those areas where we know this magnificent species persists, as well as those areas where we need to survey to evaluate their potential."
To gather those data, WWF and WCS will conduct surveys in a number of areas. These include regions virtually unexplored for tiger presence in Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. Over the next three years both WWF and WCS will each develop conservation programs and infrastructure for many of the 25 top tiger areas. They include:
- training wildlife managers
- equipping antipoaching teams
- working with people living in or near tiger habitat to ensure that conservation measures are compatible with human development needs.
- developing ecotourism programs that provide revenues for local people and conservation efforts.
- working to stop international illegal trade in tiger products through enforcement assistance, education, and promotion of medicinal alternatives.
- conducting tiger census and developing monitoring schemes.
WCS and WWF work across Asia for the conservation of tigers, and throughout the world to save endangered species and habitats.