Tigers and forests are intrinsically linked. Tigers live, breed and hunt in forests and as apex predators, they are a sign of a broader, healthy ecosystem. Khalid Pasha, the Protected Area & Habitat Expert at WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative, explains how this iconic big cat helps protect Asia's forests.
For a large part of my life I’ve lived close to the woods and for a number of years I was based within the Central Indian forested landscape carrying out Gaur research. Working across forested habitats to secure safe havens for tigers is an enriching experience and today we’re celebrating just that.
A tiger’s home is in the forest
Saving tigers means saving critical habitats. The 14 key tiger landscapes established by WWF overlap with tropical, evergreen, montane, boreal and thorny scrub forests. The presence of tigers strengthens the motivation for governments to protect these forests from illegal deforestation. Thanks to the protection tigers provide, forest landscapes are more intact, storing carbon and helping to mitigate climate change, all while nurturing biodiversity.
But it’s not just a matter of setting aside forests for tigers...
How do we make protected areas more effective?
Tigers need a lot of resources and investment including recruitment of rangers, partnering with local communities, through to monitoring and benchmarking conservation progress. If we can measure this progress, then we know where and how governments should invest their resources. Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS) is exactly designed to do that – measure the area management effectiveness, track its progress and create assurance for the recovery of tigers in the wild.
The value of a living forest is greater than the timber it contains. Using the CA|TS approach is more reliable in measuring the conservation impact in an area, with the ultimate goal to improve forest management across critical landscapes and creating safe havens for tigers.
Building resilient communities
Forests are natural supermarkets providing food, medicine and resources for indigenous and local communities, as well as the rest of the world. Communities in tiger landscapes depend heavily on forests for resources. The traditional Tungusic, Udege and Nanai peoples of Siberia consider the tiger a near-deity and often refer to it using a title of respect. The recent protection of 1.16 million hectares of forest in Russia’s Bikin National Park will provide habitat for the Amur tiger but also protect their land for future generations.
Forests have always been an intrinsic element in my life and now so are tigers. Getting to know different cultures and witnessing the rich biodiversity that’s spread across these fascinating forests is the biggest gift that life has given me.