A critical workshop is taking place from 16th – 18th April in Delhi to address the ever growing threat of road and rail infrastructure across tiger landscapes.
Tigers are solitary predators that need large areas to roam and thrive. As cubs reach maturity, they leave their mother’s range in search of new territories. For a young male, this could be an area of 150 sq. km – 1000 sq. km, depending on location and prey abundance. Tigers travel long distances daily, searching for prey and marking boundaries along their territory.
When a road is built through a forest, it acts as an “eco-system barrier”, hindering the movement of wildlife and creating pockets of fragmented habitat.
This pushes tigers into conflict with one another as they compete for territory and with humans as they are forced closer and closer to human settlement due to lack of space and adequate prey.
Roads also carry poachers into the heart of formerly inaccessible areas posing another major threat to tigers’ survival and that of all other wildlife in the area. New roads allow easier transportation of poached goods, especially larger animals that would have previously been difficult to move.
Many studies have been undertaken to show the long term impact of road development through natural habitat. The impact extends well beyond the immediate construction site and only magnifies with time. As well as fragmented habitat, increased poaching and human wildlife conflict, infrastructure creates road kill and brings invasive species that can threaten the health of the entire eco-system.
This issue has been witnessed throughout the world but the spotlight is currently on Asia as economies and populations boom, bringing with it the need for more infrastructure. If we are to have wild tigers in the future, we must find solutions which balance human development with conservation of wildlife and natural resources.
Some key solutions include:
- Sustainable transport network strategies: These will include consideration of landscape connectivity, safe wildlife passages, joint transboundary plans, avoidance of critical habitats and corridors, anti poaching guidelines and land use planning around wildlife crossings – all within the transport plan itself.
- Careful design of wildlife crossings: Wildlife crossings are an overpass or underpass that allows species to pass safely from one side of their habitat to the other without being threatened by vehicle collisions. It is essential that these have a “smart green” design that reflects the needs of local species (e.g. high enough for elephants) . The habitat around it must also be desirable to wildlife so they are not afraid to approach and use it.
The workshop in Delhi aims to develop a strategy which WWF can use to engage governments, financing institutions and communities on developing infrastructure that ensures there is a place for tigers in Asia’s future.