On-the-ground efforts to save the tiger have been given a major boost from SOS (Save Our Species) — a global conservation fund implemented by IUCN, the World Bank and GEF (Global Environment Facility) — the project will improve enforcement effectiveness in protecting and recovering tiger breeding populations and therefore addressing the biggest threat to wild tigers: poaching.
Majestic and powerful with their infamous orange and black striped coat, tigers are one of the most awe-inspiring mammals as well as one of the most threatened species on the planet. 2010 was the Chinese Year of the Tiger and a high level summit was organized in St Petersburg, underscoring the urgency of efforts to avert the extinction of this charismatic animal. With less than 3,500 left in the wild today, down from 100,000 a century ago, the tiger is on the brink of extinction.
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is a flagship species of great ecological, cultural and intrinsic value not only to the 13 Asian Range Countries where it still survives in the wild, but to every nation. Despite being the largest of all the Asian big cats, and at the top of the food chain, tigers are incredibly vulnerable to extinction.
Tiger breeding populations are scattered across a number of small areas around the world and risk further decline due to unsustainable hunting and poaching to satisfy an illegal market for skins, bones and other body parts.
However, the tiger can be saved: The conservation community knows that targeted conservation action works. A recent study carried out in 2010 in conjunction with IUCN, shows that global conservation efforts have already improved the conservation status of at least 64 species. In addition, the results show that the status of biodiversity would have declined by nearly 20 percent if conservation action had not been taken.
Big steps have been taken by the global community to protect tigers. In 2008, the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) was launched by the World Bank jointly with the Tiger Range Countries, Global Environment Facility, international partners, NGOs and private sector to revert the decline of wild tigers. This effort culminated in November 2010 in the International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia where a Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) was adopted by all of the Tiger Range Countries. This unprecedented joint commitment by governments distinctly raises the hope that the number of tigers in the wild could be doubled by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger. GTRP comprises a comprehensive, broad-spectrum conservation strategy that should be able to raise tiger numbers and build up viable populations in the range countries.
The International Tiger Forum, hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and co-hosted by World Bank President Robert Zoellick, was the most significant meeting ever held to discuss the fate of a single species. Now is the time for transforming all the commitments into concrete action. Building on this political momentum, the SOS (Save our Species) Donor Council decided to contribute to the Global Tiger Recovery Program by supporting the SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) initiative with a USD 700,000 grant.
SMART is a new spatial monitoring and reporting tool for planning, implementing, monitoring and reporting the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts in breeding sites across the tiger’s habitat. Monitoring poaching activities has been a challenge in the past and SMART aims to reduce the poaching pressures on tigers and their prey by strengthening the capacity, accountability, and motivation of protected area staff in carrying out law enforcement operations.
SMART has been proposed by a global partnership of conservation agencies and NGOs including the Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund, Zoological Society of London, Frankfurt Zoological Society, and North Carolina Zoo, in collaboration with CITES/MIKE (Monitoring of the Illegal Killing of Elephants). The common goal is improving site-based law enforcement effectiveness. The tool will collate, manage, and evaluate data on poaching incidents, collected by rangers as part of their day-to-day patrolling. Activities under the SOS grant will be led by WCS - Wildlife Conservation Society - and will focus on nine important tiger sites in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Russia and Lao PDR , in coordination with capacity building activities under the GTRP focusing on SMART patrolling in these and other tiger range countries.
By demonstrating progress in the nine chosen sites, the aim is to inspire action in other sites across the wide-range of tiger habitats. These conservation efforts will also benefit the many other threatened species that share the tigers’ environment and depend on effective enforcement and strong local governance for their survival.
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