The Way of the Tiger
For many of us, the term “protected area” alludes to a place that gives a sense of security.
Indeed, protected areas are home to some of the world’s most threatened species, such as tigers, elephants, and rhinos, and are meant to be secure spaces for wildlife and nature – just as any home should be for its inhabitants.
Yet, a new study* of over a hundred protected areas found at least one-third of them are at severe risk of losing their wild tigers.
Alarmingly, most of these sites are in Southeast Asia, where tigers have suffered the most dramatic decline in the past decade.
Due to rampant poaching and habitat destruction, we have lost over 95% of the world’s tiger population in just a little over a century. With only around 3,900 tigers left in the wild, tigers are endangered and found in just around 5% of their former range.
Despite poaching being one of the biggest threats to wild tigers today, 85% of tiger sites do not have enough rangers and staff to patrol these supposedly protected areas, the survey reveals.
In Southeast Asia, low investment by governments is a key challenge. Here, only 35% of the protected areas stated that finances are, or are on the way to being sustainable. This needs to change.
“Many protected areas are woefully understaffed. The average apartment block in an Asian city will probably have more guards than many protected areas have rangers. Funding is needed urgently, especially in Southeast Asia, to ensure that tigers are able to recover in these areas,”
said Michael Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tigers Alive.
The integrity of protected areas can and must be upheld.
Across the tiger’s range, only 13% of the surveyed sites have reported to meet the global standards set by Conservation Assured Tiger Standards, or CA|TS, the first accreditation scheme designed to measure and improve the management of tiger conservation areas.
Since its launch in 2013, the CA|TS scheme has been a game-changer in tiger habitat management by setting the benchmark in which protected areas can be measured against.
Currently, 50 sites across nine tiger-range countries have already registered for CA|TS, and are working towards achieving an approved status.
With over half of the surveyed areas reporting fairly strong management, there is positive momentum for these tiger sites to achieve CA|TS and in turn, stronger protection for wild tigers, through targeted investments and more effective management.
To help facilitate more protected areas to join the scheme and achieve improved management effectiveness, the CA|TS Partnership was formed by 11 leading conservation organisations (including WWF) and tiger range governments.
As part of the CA|TS partnership, WWF calls for governments to take lead in ensuring protected areas are safe for wild tigers. To achieve this, governments need to ensure long-term investment in protected areas where wild tigers roam, and to strive towards global standards set by CA|TS.
“The tiger is not only an ecologically important species. It also holds a significant place in culture and history. It is just unthinkable to lose these magnificent stripes from our ecosystem,”
said Phento Tshering, Director, Department of Forests and Park Services, Royal Government of Bhutan and Chair of the CA|TS Council.
“Therefore, I urge and request all tiger range countries to reaffirm our commitment to saving tigers for now and for future so that their existence is guaranteed in perpetuity.”
* This survey is driven by the CA|TS Partnership comprising of tiger range governments and 11 leading conservation organizations – Equilibrium Research, Freeland Foundation, Global Wildlife Conservation, Global Tiger Forum, IUCN, Panthera, Smithsonian Institution, UNDP, World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), WildTeam, and WWF. Read the full report here.