Meet the All-Female Team Protecting China's Tigers
Tigers are the ultimate conservation superheroes in striped capes.
On World Wildlife Day, here’s to tigers and all they contribute to protecting our precious planet!
As an umbrella species, tiger habitats overlap with 332 Key Biodiversity Areas across the tiger range, which are home to many of our planet’s most endangered species. In Sumatra, for example, all Sumatran rhinos and orangutans live within tiger ranges. Because tigers need such large, healthy territories to survive – by protecting their kingdoms we are securing a future for other amazing wildlife too!
Tiger habitats overlap with nine globally important watersheds that supply water to as many as 830 million people living in rural communities, towns and even giant cities like Bangkok. There’s a hero in action from afar.
Forest landscapes protected for tigers store more carbon per square kilometer than other forests in the region. In fact, forest protection prevents emissions of an estimated 130,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. Healthy forests for tigers, clean air for people!
Well, not all of us. But it is well known that healthy natural ecosystems can help mitigate all but the largest of natural disasters. For instance, the storm protection value of mangroves is well recognised as they buffer storm surges and reduce the impact on local communities. Guess who lives in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans? Yep, tigers.
A single, well-known tigress in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India, was estimated to be responsible for revenues of over US$130 MILLION in the first decade of her life through park fees, lodging, taxes and service fees. She’s also said to have effectively employed over 3,000 local people. Only a superhero could make that much money, and never ask to keep a penny of it.
Tigers have been around for far longer than your modern superhero. Their social significance can be seen in cosmologies, faiths and folktales of almost all civilisations in tiger range countries – some of the oldest civilisations on our planet. To protect their home and their survival is to protect the sacred natural sites, traditional cultures and languages of many indigenous peoples across Asia.
International borders don’t mean much to tigers. Some move between China and Russia, others between Myanmar and Thailand, and many more between India and Nepal and Bhutan. For this reason they are a major incentive for cross-border collaboration, meaning the tiger plays a unique role in bringing countries, organisations and people to work together on common conservation goals. In fact, the global collaborative Tx2 goal to double wild tiger numbers is one of the most significant single species commitments by an entire region of governments. Ever humble, tigers haven’t got a clue quite how remarkable they are.
Tigers have recently been documented living at altitudes of above 4,000m in the Himalayan Mountains and also in places ranging from -40°C to 40°C. Anyone who can survive those extremes is a superhero in our books!
As with almost all superhero stories there comes a time in the narrative when the hero himself needs saving. For tigers, that time is now. Since the beginning of the 20th century their numbers have plummeted by 95%, and they survive in a meagre 5% of their former range.
The tiger’s superpower has always been the fact that it exists. But in our rapidly changing world the accelerating speed of nature loss threatens tigers, people and all life on earth. Given the global significance of where tigers live and the benefits they bring to so many people – if we can protect the mighty tiger, we stand a chance of safeguarding our future, too.
Tx2 is the global goal to double tiger numbers by 2022. The goal is about halting the extinction of an iconic species, but in doing so, we will save so much more.
This article is written by Kassia Wordley, Digital Communications, for WWF International’s Tigers Alive Initiative