Wildlife & Biodiversity

10 years since St Petersburg Declaration, hopes for doubling tiger numbers dim

Instead one-third of tiger conservation sites in the world are severely at risk of losing their wild tigers

By Ishan Kukreti
Last Updated: Thursday 31 January 2019
Representational photo. Credit: Getty Images Representational photo. Credit: Getty Images

Nearly a decade since the governments of 13 tiger home range countries came together to double the global tiger population by 2022, their goal seems nowhere in sight.

In the 2010 St. Petersburg Declaration, the countries agreed to a Global Tiger Recovery Program. However, as the discussions at the 3rd Stocktaking Conference on the Global Tiger Recovery Program held in New Delhi from January 28 to January 29 showed, the world is far away from doubling its tiger population.

In fact, over one-third of tiger conservation sites in the world are severely at risk of losing their wild tigers — the majority of which are in Southeast Asia. Many of these areas lack basic plans for effective management, with over 60 per cent of the sites facing several limitations in anti-poaching, according to the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS) survey of tiger sites done in 2018.

"The governments in Southeast Asia now face an urgent need to step up their commitment to protect their remaining wild tiger populations. Countries like India, Nepal and Russia have shown that tiger recovery is possible, despite challenges in poaching, funding and sustaining community livelihoods, which can be overcome with strong political commitment,” said Joseph Vattakaven, who participated in the stocktaking conference as the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) global lead on tiger recovery.

Malaysia reported a significant drop from earlier national estimates of around 250–340.

“Updates presented by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks suggest that Malaysia’s national estimate could be less than 200 individual wild tigers, although the national tiger survey is still ongoing and requires further analysis. However, this reconfirms the urgent need for strong action and sustained investments,” said Mark Rayan Darmaraj, WWF-Malaysia’s tiger landscape lead.

The tiger range countries that are part of the Global Tiger Recovery Program are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. However, China and Indonesia were not present at the conference.

Known hot spots for illegal trade in tiger parts include the Indo-Nepalese border, South India, Central India, Mekong-China, Indonesia-China and Russia-China. Due to lack of centralised data across tiger range countries, it is difficult to enforce laws, according to Tilotama Varma, Additional Director, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India.

“It is really difficult to get data from Southeast Asian countries and China. If we had a centralised data bank, the illegal trade could be curbed,” she said, emphasising on the need for more cross-country cooperation between countries where there is high demand for tiger parts as well as countries which are home to tiger populations. 

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