Is it too late for the tiger? The Tiger – a top predator in forest eco
Wild Tigers are on the verge of extinction At the turn of the 20th Century, an estimated 100,000 wild tigers inhabited a range extending across Asia and the Russian Far East. But poaching, habitat loss, and fragmentation have relentlessly pushed tigers into smaller and smaller enclaves – in smaller numbers – to the verge of extinction. Today, there are perhaps 3,500 wild tigers living in their natural habitat. They inhabit 119 million hectares of forests in Tiger Range Countries.
14th December 2010
The Tiger – a top predator in forest ecosystems – is a natural indicator of the functionality and sustainability of an ecosystem. Given persisting trends of deforestation in East and South Asia and a continuing crisis for wildlife, the prognosis for wild tigers is rather bleak.
The Global Tiger Initiative was launched by President Robert B. Zoellick of the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, Smithsonian Institution, International Tiger Coalition, and an alliance of governments and international organizations in June 2008. The GTI envisions a reversal in trends for the wild tiger, helping it to recover and repopulate its habitats in sustainable numbers. Today’s challenge is to fulfill the growing development needs of people and to manage natural resources, of which the tiger is one, in a sustainable way. In other words, we need to create a new development paradigm.
Sustained funding (national and international) will be necessary over 10-15 years to enhance management and control systems in use at these tiger habitats to ensure sustainable use of forest resources. These measures could bring tiger population declines to a halt and improve local livelihoods.
Why Care about Tigers?
Wild tigers are not only a symbol of all that is splendid, mystical and powerful about nature. They are also a beacon of biodiversity, linking together the forests they inhabit and the natural resources and ecosystem services that their habitats produce for people. Sadly, the next decade may be the last one for the wild tiger. The loss of tigers and degradation of their ecosystems would inevitably result in a historic cultural, spiritual, and environmental catastrophe for the Tiger Range Countries.
Habitats where wild tigers live have high economic and ecological value. Tiger lands provide vital services to humans, such as carbon sequestration, hydrological balance, pollination services, protection from natural disasters and soil erosion, medicinal plant genetic diversity, and bio-prospecting. A majority of the Tiger Conservation Landscapes (TCLs) lie in one of the designated 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world.
The tiger is an indicator of how human society is doing with regards to the larger question of sustaining environmental quality in the face of ever-increasing demands on finite resources. The tiger’s well-being is a barometer of the critical question: Are we making the right choices to sustain the planet? Success in saving the tiger would energize ongoing efforts to fight species extinction and to protect our planet’s increasingly threatened biodiversity, which is its very life-blood.
Changing this trajectory toward extinction is a challenging task. Policymakers remain unaware of the immense economic and ecological value of living tigers and their natural habitats, leading to neglect of conservation objectives in national planning. Poaching continues unabated due to the weak institutional capacity for wildlife law enforcement in most Tiger Range Countries and the burgeoning global demand for tiger parts. Infrastructure planning and changes in land use that disregard the loss of tiger habitats and biodiversity, lead to habitat reduction and fragmentation. Tiger landscapes are also surrounded by pockets of poverty. Nearby communities depend on resources in these landscapes for survival. When over-exploitation of forest resources occurs, the wildlife habitats are compromised. Lack of scientific monitoring and ineffective management of landscapes contribute to habitat deterioration.
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