International Tiger Day 2019
“The Tiger Who Came To Tea”
(‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ is a well-known and well-loved children’s book from Britain. The author, Judith Kerr, died aged 95 in May this year. The book tells the tale of a tiger who interrupts afternoon tea in the house of the young girl named Sophie.)
International Tiger Day is celebrated every year on 29th July as an annual celebration to raise awareness for tiger conservation, promote the protection of the natural habitat of tigers and support conservation issues. The day is celebrated under the slogan:
“Their survival is in our hands”
The day was created in 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger Summit in Russia where the governments of the 13 tiger countries set their ambitious goal.
Once upon a time there may have been over 100,000 tigers roaming this planet. But by 2010, we had lost over 95% of the world’s tiger population to widespread poaching and loss of habitat. An ambitious conservation goal was set by the governments of the 13 tiger range countries to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 (the next Chinese year of the tiger). This is known as the Tx2 goal.
13 Tiger Range Countries
Tigers are not just one of the world’s most iconic species, they are crucial for the ecosystems in which they live. They are the top predators of the food chain, keeping prey populations in check, which helps to maintain the balance between herbivores and the vegetation they eat.
Balanced ecosystems are also important for us – we rely on forests (whether directly for livelihoods, or indirectly for food and products). Climate change effects are becoming more and more apparent with natural forests becoming increasing important for fresh water, clean air and weather regulation.
Tigers not only protect a forest’s ecological integrity but also by bringing the highest levels of protection and investment to an area. They are known as an ‘umbrella species’ meaning their conservation also aids the conservation of other species. An adult male’s home range varies from 150 – 1000 km2, therefore large areas of intact forest must be preserved for tiger conservation.
By protecting tigers, we are protecting the forests – which ultimately benefits us all.
Rather than saving tigers, Tx2 focuses on expanding the number we already have by using a strategic, long-term approach working across landscapes and encouraging trans-boundary collaboration. This involves increasing protection where tigers are currently found, maintaining wildlife corridors, and boosting resources and protection for where tigers could be in the future.
World tiger population is estimated to be around 3,890 (April 2016) according to best available data and for the first time in about a century, the global decline in the wild tiger numbers has been halted.
Facts in numbers
- 93% of tiger ranges have been lost in recent years
- 758 tiger skins were found in seizures between 2000-2015
- Approx. 30% of tiger products seized are suspected to originate from captive breeding
- 7,000-8,000 tigers are believed to be held in captive breeding facilities throughout Asia
- A raid in 2016 of an infamous tiger temple in Thailand led to the seizure of:
- Over 130 live animals
- 40+ dead cubs
- Tiger pelts
- 1,500 tiger skin amulets
- Only 3,890 tigers are estimated to be living in the wild
YES! But only with full commitment from all 13 tiger range countries. The Global Tiger Recovery Plan was the result of the Tiger Summit in 2010 which outlines how each country can contribute to the Tx2 goal. However, the plan is now somewhat outdated, and a new action plan is required.
Tigers breed extremely easily and given adequate space, prey base and protection, the wild tiger population can increase. There are 20 Tx2 sites that have been identified where tiger populations have the potential to recover rapidly. However, global poaching levels have reached critical levels and organised crime gangs are becoming increasingly involved with the illegal wildlife trade where each body part gains profit; from whisker to tail. Tiger governments must create a plan to combat poaching if tigers are to survive.
Habitat loss is also a severe threat endangering the immediate and long-term survival of the species. Tigers are long-ranging and wide-spreading creatures that need large swathes of forest to survive. It is therefore crucial that their habitat is secured and preserved to the highest standard. It has been estimated that as much as 40% of tiger habitat has been lost over the last decade and without a major collaboration effort, more habitat will be lost.
WWF is a driving force behind Tx2 and is currently pushing for political momentum to ensure tiger conservation remains a top governmental priority, training rangers and developing conservation standards, tackling illegal wildlife trade, focusing efforts in key tiger landscapes, and ensuring there is space for both tigers and people.
6000+ wild tigers is the peak goal of Tx2. The bar was set high to ensure tiger protection and conservation was given priority, effort, innovation and investment. Not all tiger countries need to individually double their tiger numbers as Tx2 is a global target. The number of tigers sustained in each country is set on a case-by-case basis.
TRAFFIC is a wildlife trade and monitoring network who is working alongside the WWF to help raise and train sniffer dog squads to strengthen anti-poaching and anti-trafficking measures. Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell that can detect and discriminate between the living species and raw meat, despite smugglers’ efforts to mask them. The dogs not only increase efficiency and detect substances, their presence also provides a deterrent to traffickers. By the end of 2017, 56 dogs had been trained successfully and deployed through this program.
Successes so far…
- Wild tiger numbers have increased for the first time globally (3,890 in April 2016)
- Comprehensive national tiger surveys have been carried out in India, Russia, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh giving a clear indication of wild tiger numbers
- Tigers are returning to Northeast China - camera trap footage in 2014 showed this exciting development
- Nepal became the first country in the world to achieve Zero Poaching – not only for tigers, but for elephants and rhinos too (The Toolkit: the necessary steps towards Zero Poaching)
- Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS) has been developed with 2 accredited sites
- The Ranger Federation of Asia (RFA) was founded in 2013 to connect and improve working standards for the staff who protect Asia’s wildlife
2016 marked the halfway point of Tx2. The six years leading up to it have laid the foundations for doubling tigers by 2022. Halting the rapid decline of tigers was a crucial landmark in 2016 and paves the way for the next six years.