Local communities are essential partners if we are to co-exist with tigers: WWF

Posted on 13 June 2022

  • WWF’s latest report urges tiger range country governments to put those living with tigers at the heart of human-tiger conservation strategies.
  • The report comes ahead of international negotiations taking place in August 2022 in New Delhi, where governments will begin discussions on the next 12-year Global Tiger Recovery Programme. 
  • Nearly 47 million people live in tiger landscapes, and an additional 85 million are estimated to live within 10 kilometres of these areas. But places where tiger habitats and human homes overlap also face booming social, economic and environmental changes that are bringing people and tigers closer together. 
A report released by WWF today urges tiger range governments to rapidly prioritise human-tiger coexistence in tiger conservation policies and plans in the decades to come. Although alarm bells are still ringing for tiger numbers in Southeast Asia, collectively, the figure has nearly doubled in some South Asian countries. Community leadership has featured centrally in this progress but WWF’s report highlights that this support should not be taken for granted. 

“While a rise in wild tiger numbers is good news, it brings challenges for coexistence. But the opportunities are countless when we invest in the millions of people who navigate life around tigers — and when their voices directly contribute to policy. Far more must be done to ensure that we integrate their needs and contributions into future tiger conservation efforts both in the short term and long term,” says Mike Belecky, WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative Global Policy Lead. 

46.7 million people currently live alongside the world’s largest cat. But the report highlights that a growing squeeze of space and resources across the tiger range — caused by roads cutting into habitats, climate change drying up farmlands and wetlands, and other threats to the fast-changing threatened landscape — have led to a rise in human-tiger encounters and conflict in many places. 

“Countries that have successfully increased their tiger populations over the last decade through effective protected area management will need to ensure strategies are in place to support human-tiger coexistence outside protected areas. If we can get ‘living with tigers’ right, then we have a formula for living with any large carnivore,” says Stuart Chapman, WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative Lead. 

“I welcome the findings of the report. We, people of the grasslands, have been living with tigers for generations. So we play a huge role in conservation, which provides benefits to us in the long-term. The budget allocated [for conservation in buffer zone areas] should be spent on empowering the youth. Raising their income level would help support tiger conservation,” says Sapika Magar, chairperson of Nirmal Thori’s Rapid Response Team in Parsa District, Nepal, an initiative that brings together community volunteers who are trained to help manage human-wildlife conflict incidents. 

Building on conversations with communities living alongside tigers, the report sets out its recommendation for what governments in tiger-range countries must do: 
  1. Adopt well-defined and measurable goals on human-tiger coexistence in the next Global Tiger Recovery Program (2023-2034), and directly link such strategies to the sustainable development agenda.
  2. Rapidly expand direct community involvement in tiger conservation decision-making - and in doing so, create new forums for direct dialogue with 'tiger' communities at all governance levels (local, national, regional). 
  3. In consultation with local communities, design and implement new policies that reduce the costs and expand the benefits of living with tigers, both as a matter of fundamental fairness, and in recognizing the critical role Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities play in maintaining tiger populations.
  4. Significantly increase investments for tiger conservation outside traditional protected areas systems. These investments should maximise the use of social science expertise and also facilitate the processes that can lead to the formation of new community conserved areas within tiger areas.

For more information please contact:
Lauren Simmonds | WWF | lsimmonds@wwf-tigers.org 
Download the report in full here.