In the last hundred years, the number of tigers in the wild has plummeted by a staggering 97%. The answer to this alarming fall was 2010’s St Petersburg Declaration, strongly backed by the World Bank, which aimed to double the global tiger population by 2022.
Almost six years have passed since St Petersburg and over this time I have witnessed encouraging signs of progress. Tiger populations are believed to have increased in India, Bhutan, Nepal, the Russian Federation and Thailand. Much more remains to be done, however. These efforts must be sustained over time: countries must scale up their action and monitor remaining tiger populations to ensure the world can meet this ambitious goal.
IUCN’s Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) provides resources and technical expertise where they are most needed. I am delighted to announce that the first seven initiatives are now underway. The programme builds on the experience of the Global Species Programme and the Species Survival Commission, with input from a number of global experts in species conservation, protected area management and community empowerment.
I am grateful to the German government and KfW, the German Development Bank, for their support towards conserving this amazing species.
Tiger conservation reflects the challenges conservation is facing globally. Tigers are apex predators and need vast spaces and abundant prey to survive. Pressure on these very resources is increasing as human populations in Asia continue to grow, frequently resulting in conflict with humans. Involving local communities in conservation work is essential to harmonize coexistence between tigers and people and that is what we have done with all the projects under this programme. They simply would not work without it.
Tiger-focused conservation interventions yield benefits to the management of ecosystems that provide vital services to local communities. For instance, ITHCP contributes to watershed management in regions where habitats provide clean water to millions of people. Additionally, significant revenue will be generated by alternative income streams such as sustainable ecotourism developments in the targeted countries.
Tigers do not recognise borders. The transboundary nature of many tiger landscapes requires practitioners to collaborate to achieve positive results. IUCN’s objective and evidence-based approach is critical in bringing together multiple states, sectors and stakeholders in working towards this ambitious goal.