New Delhi: At least a third of the 112 tiger conservation areas across 11 countries are severely at risk of losing their tigers due to poor management, according to a survey by Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS) secretariat, a body recognized by all tiger range countries.
The survey, released on Wednesday, stressed that most of these sites are in Southeast Asia where tiger populations have suffered the most dramatic decline in the past decade.
Only 13% of the total sites are able to meet global standards, according to the survey.
The survey aimed at gaining a better understanding of the challenges that tiger range governments face in protecting wild tigers.
CA|TS was created to support the long-term goal of doubling the number of tigers in the wild and ensuring that wild tigers receive effective protection and management.
The survey looked at current management in 112 sites in 11 tiger range countries and covered about 70% of the global wild tiger population across over 200,000 square km of the tiger range. The 11 countries whose tiger conservation areas were surveyed included China, Russia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.
However, as per the survey, the most reassuring part was that “two-thirds of the areas surveyed reported fair to strong management”.
“Yet, basic needs such as enforcement against poaching, engaging local communities and managing conflict between people and wildlife, remain weak for all areas surveyed,” it cautioned.
The study further said “despite poaching being one of the greatest threats faced by big cats, 85% of the areas surveyed do not have staff capacity to patrol sites effectively, and 61% of the areas in Southeast Asia have very limited anti-poaching enforcement.”
The findings of the survey are significant as India is home to a large number of tigers. According to the tiger census of 2014, India had 2,226 tigers, about 60% of the world’s wild tiger population of about 3,890.
Next come Russia (433 tigers), Indonesia (371), Malaysia (250) and Nepal (198). In 2016, India’s tiger count was pegged at 2,500.
India is expected to come out with the latest tiger population data by this year-end.
“Ineffective management of tiger conservation areas leads to tiger extinction. To halt and reverse the decline of wild tigers, effective management is thus the single most important action. To achieve this, long-term investment in tiger conservation areas is absolutely essential, and this is a responsibility that must be led by tiger range governments,” said S.P. Yadav, assistant secretary general of the Global Tiger Forum, an international body which works for tiger conservation across the globe.
The survey is the first and the largest assessment of site-based tiger conservation across Asia.
The survey noted that low investment from governments in Southeast Asia was stated as one reason for the lack of management of these supposedly ‘protected areas’.
“While 86% of areas in South Asia, Russia and China stated that finances are, or are on the way to being sustainable, in comparison only 35% of areas in Southeast Asia are in a similar position,” it added.
“Unless governments commit to sustained investments in the protection of these sites, tiger populations may face the catastrophic decline that they have suffered over the last few decades. This funding is needed urgently, particularly for many sites in Southeast Asia to support recovery of its tiger population,” said Michael Baltzer, chair of the executive committee of CA|TS.
The survey comes ahead of the World Wildlife Day on 3 March, which this year calls for the protection of big cats.