New study shows over a third of protected areas in Asia surveyed are severely at risk of losing tigers

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New Delhi: Only 13 percent of the tiger conservation areas meet the global standards of Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS) according to a rapid survey of current management methodologies in 112 sites located in 11 tiger range countries, including India. The survey is the first and largest rapid assessment of site-based tiger conservation across Asia and has been driven by 11 conservation organisations and tiger range governments that are part of the CA|TS coalition. The Conservation Assured | Tiger Standards (CA|TS), was developed in response to the need for stringent conservation procedures for protection of the big cat through a partnership between governments and conservation organisations to assess levels of effective management, encourage best standards of management, and to support the TX2 goal to double the number of tigers in the wild, adopted at the St Petersburg ‘Tiger Summit’ in 2010.
Under the accreditation system of CA|TS, tiger conservation areas provide evidence under seven pillars and 17 elements of critical management activity to demonstrate that they meet a range of criteria for effective conservation management. To date, three sites- Lansdowne Forest Division in Uttarakhand, India, Chitwan National Park in Nepal and Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve in Russia have been awarded CA|TS Approved status.

Investment in the effective management of tiger conservation areas has been an important strategy for tiger conservation for many decades. Despite efforts, the sites are far from effective management strategies and tigers have consequently been lost from vast areas of their potential range. Of the 112 global sites surveyed, only 12.5 percent are currently able to meet the full CA|TS criteria. Half of the assessed sites(52.5%) report fairly strong management although there are improvements needed. The remaining 35% (the majority of which are in Southeast Asia) have relatively weak management. Basic needs such as enforcement against poaching, engaging local communities and managing conflict between people and wildlife, remain weak for all areas surveyed.

“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, Global Tiger Forum.

Positive findings highlight the fact that tiger monitoring is being implemented in 87% of sites. All sites surveyed in South Asian and East Asian countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Russia have management plans; however, several sites in Southeast Asia including countries like Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand do not. About 85% of sites also have systems for assessing management effectiveness.

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.

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% areas in Southeast Asia are in a similar position.

“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 Blazer, Chair of the Executive Committee of CA|TS.

“To secure a future for wild tigers, functional connectivity between tiger habitats is essential. Through an effective CA|TS framework, robust management plans for the tiger habitats and corridors can be prepared and security protocols can be established. The accreditation of Lansdowne Forest Division, Uttarakhand, in May 2017, the third CA|TS accredited site globally and the first in India, is significant since it is a crucial link between the Rajaji and Corbett Tiger Reserves,” said Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO of WWF-India.

“The results in this report provides a way for countries to make informed decisions in driving tiger conservation forward, helping to lead a sustainable path for parks, people and tigers to all thrive together,” said Sugoto Roy, Coordinator of the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme, IUCN.

“The tiger’s survival is a critical indicator for sustainable development in tiger range countries – it is intrinsically linked to the integrity of nature and the services it provides, upon which all development rests,” comments Midori Paxton, Head of Ecosystems and Biodiversity at the UNDP.

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