Q+A: Wildlife expert urges bigger investments to protect endangered tigers

A mother tiger (Krishna, T-19) and her cub. Ranthambore National Park, India. WWF/Souvik Kundu
1 March 2018

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) – Fewer than 13 percent of protected areas for tigers meet global conservation area management standards, largely due to insufficient investment from governments, according to a report released ahead of U.N. World Wildlife Day on March 3.

Some 85 percent of conservation areas do not have enough staff to protect the cats properly from poaching threats, the report said.

The survey conducted by Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CATS) also showed that more than 60 percent of tiger areas in Southeast Asia have very limited anti-poaching enforcement.

“Government investment in tiger conservation areas is the only long-term solution to their management needs,” said Khalid Pasha, protected areas specialist at World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), part of the collaborative CATS partnership, which secures safe havens for wild tigers.

“While some countries are investing in their sites, most in Southeast Asia are lacking even fairly basic levels of government funding – a situation which needs to change,” he said.

Tigers are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the accepted barometer for monitoring threatened species.

Pasha shared his views with Landscapes News.

Q: Were there any surprising results from the survey? 

A: Yes, and many of these are worrying results. Only 13 percent of sites surveyed are currently able to meet the CATS criteria – the global standards for management of tiger conservation areas. Further, more than one-third were found to be far below the global standards, meaning that their tiger populations are at risk of rapid decline and eventual loss. It’s important to recognize that there are reassuring results and there is much cause for hope. Over half of the sites surveyed report fairly strong management, although there are significant improvements needed.

Q: From a landscapes perspective, what are the most significant findings?

A: Tigers need large, connected spaces to live and breed, and tiger sites are the building blocks that make up these larger landscapes. To achieve effective landscape-scale conservation, it is critical to have effectively managed sites.

Achieving and maintaining global standards and best practices through CATS will help ensure all protected areas (and wider landscapes) with tigers are effectively managed. With site-level information collected through meeting these standards, this would help promote a community of knowledge and best practices throughout the tiger’s range.

Q: Apart from government investment what are potential solutions?

A: Good management in tiger conservation areas is the single most important action to halt and reverse the decline of wild tigers. As such, CATS should be implemented across the tiger range to strengthen effective management of tiger conservation areas. investment in and professionalization of staff teams, in particular rangers and law enforcement teams, is the foundation for success. This will also require sustainable government investment, as well as strong political will.

Q: Could “green” financing play a role?

A: Yes, “green” financing mechanisms can help in developing solutions, provided it is resilient and adaptable enough to keep the needs of conservation as central. Most protected areas around the world are not well-managed, mainly because of lack of funding to do so. These measures will help ensure that each country’s protected and conserved areas are secured, along with its wildlife, treasured biodiversity and natural resources. Protected Areas already create economic benefits through livelihood opportunities like ecotourism, and also indirect/downstream benefits for agricultural and recreational sectors, as well as quality of life for urban communities… there is a growing awareness of – and demand for – investments by both private sector and governments, into areas and programs that can achieve both social and environmental objectives. Protected areas, as well as their buffers and linked corridors, are the ideal place to achieve these objectives . . . . we will need a mechanism across tiger landscapes for large Protected Area Financing to create enabling mechanisms for effective tiger conservation.

Q: What else can be done to protect tigers and landscapes?

A: Engaging local communities as allies in conservation is fundamental for protecting landscapes. In Nepal, local people are engaged in community based anti-poaching efforts, with many of these groups led and staffed by women. By 2008, the government of Nepal had handed over approximately one-third (28 percent) of the country’s forests to local communities to manage, which has helped to save forests and wildlife, and reduce poverty. Community-based anti-poaching units, originally set up to reduce the level of poaching of tigers and rhinos, have quickly become involved in monitoring trafficking of other wild flora and fauna. Today, there are more than 400 units working throughout the country, patrolling critical areas like wildlife corridors and providing vital information sources on illegal activity. Nepal’s example tells us that this is not only possible, it is key to conservation success – and it is no wonder that Nepal’s Chitwan National Park was the first to achieve CATS-Approved status.

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