Tigers have lost over 93% of their historic range and their numbers dropped from perhaps 100,000 a century ago to just 3,200 in 2010.
Tigers are no longer found on the islands of Bali and Java in Indonesia, or around the Caspian Sea region. And there is now no evidence of breeding populations in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam. The protection of their dwindling populations, reduced to a few pockets around Asia, are our priority.
So, how do we best support these areas so tigers can recover and thrive? This is the question we ask ourselves every day.
Enter CA|TS, which stands for Conservation Assured Tiger Standards. Launched in 2013, it is an accreditation system that sets best practices and standards within Tiger Conservation Areas, or TCAs, as well as benchmarking progress. It is within these areas that the recovery of tigers hold the most hope and where we hope to learn more about protecting this magnificent species.
This is what we learned from the largest tiger management study to date. It’s the result of survey responses received from 111 Tiger Conservation Areas from 11 Tiger Range Countries conducted in 2018, and recently published in IUCN’s Parks Journal.
1. 35% of the world’s Tiger Conservation Areas are at risk of serious declines in their tiger populations.
If this trend continues, it will seriously impact the chances of reaching the TX2 goal - to double the number of wild tigers by 2022. The results suggest that despite a welcome increase in attention paid to tiger conservation, there are serious weaknesses in management, particularly in Southeast Asia.
2. Southeast Asia’s Tiger Conservation Areas are struggling with inadequate funding.
Only 35% of TCAs in Southeast Asia are on the way to being sustainable, with additional revenue streams maximised and linked to management priorities. This compares to 86% of TCAs outside of Southeast Asia.
Tigers across South East Asia are facing a severe threat from illegal hunting and snaring, but this region also holds huge potential for tiger recovery. Effective management and investment in areas where the population is still present and the protection of interconnected habitat could provide hope for tigers (we have seen a glimmer of this in Thailand already for instance).
3. Human wildlife conflict measures must be stepped up.
There is a big difference between Southeast Asia and the rest of the tiger range countries in implementing effective management strategies for human wildlife conflict, which includes conflict directly between tigers, tiger prey, and humans.
Fewer than half of TCAs (46%) in South Asia, Russia, and China have implemented such systems. Only two TCAs in Southeast Asia have human wildlife conflict systems initiated and another eight have systems under development.
4. Communities must be at the centre of tiger conservation.
Only 53% of TCAs report that they involve communities in applicable areas of site management and only 30% of TCAs have involved stakeholders in management planning. People must be placed at the centre of tiger conservation and WWF will work through its conservation partners to listen, learn, and act to make this happen.
What does this tell us?
Global tiger populations are slowly increasing, but their future is by no means secured. As these findings show us, we must redouble our efforts, continue to put people at the centre of tiger conservation and refocus on avoiding extinction in Southeast Asia. Here’s a snapshot of what must be done:
- Some Tiger Conservation Areas are failing and need increased funding and policy support from their own governments, and targeted support from donors, NGOs, and others to aid basic capacity building.
- In other cases, TCAs need specific support, particularly in terms of policies and training in relation to stakeholder relations and enforcement to manage the sites effectively. Planning for conservation must include the voices of local communities and indigenous people.
- Protected areas must continue to use CA|TS to track improvements and changes in management, which will include a comparative study every two years.
Despite all the challenges 2020 has posed, it has reminded us that our relationship with nature is under strain. Protecting nature means protecting ourselves. That’s why protecting tigers, as a large carnivore covering a huge range, means protecting countless other species, forests, and ecosystems upon which millions of people depend. CA|TS is a crucial tool to measure the success of conservation.