Delegates from 13 tiger-range countries and several U.S. delegates convened in St. Petersburg, Russia in late November to discuss declines in the tiger population. Hosted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the International Tiger Summit marked the first time world leaders met to discuss the fate of a single species. Alarming declines in the tiger population has sparked emergency funding to protect tiger refuges, with the main objective of not just tiger conservation, but also tiger expansion.
World Bank president, Robert Zoellick joined Prime Minister Putin in creating the four day summit. Zoellick organized the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) in 2008, a collaborative effort between major conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Zoellick’s main objective for GTI targeted the 2010 Tiger Summit. GTI “will lead consultations and dialogue with range state governments to garner support for tiger conservation at the highest level.” Backed by WWF’s Tiger Initiative and GTI, World Bank will eventually establish a filter system designed to assess any projects concerning tigers and tiger habitats.
Over the past century wild tiger populations have decreased a dramatic 97%. Much of the wild tiger decline is due to illegal poaching. Tiger products (parts) are highly profitable in areas of China, the major market for illegally imported tiger parts. Parts such as bones and skins are often harvested for illegal trading and selling. TRAFFIC, a leader in wildlife trade monitoring, reported the seizure of over 1,000 tiger parts in the last decade. Many conservationists argue that efforts to protect tiger habitat will be for nothing if education on ill effects of poaching is not emphasized.
Currently, there is an estimated 3,200 tigers living in their natural habitat, down from 100,000 a century ago. Another several thousand live in captivity such as backyards, side shows, truck stops, private feeding grounds, and zoos. The United States is responsible for one of the largest number of captive tigers estimated at 5,000. Many areas allow the legal ownership of tigers without the need to report ownership to local authorities. In some states, it is believed buying a tiger is easier than adopting a dog. Because tiger ownership is not well regulated in the United States, captive tigers become targeted for black market sales.
Wild tigers remain in only 13 Asian countries, opposed to 25 countries at the beginning of the century. The 13 tiger countries, all represented at the summit, arrived with different plans of how best to save the tigers. Ideas ranged from big and broad to small and concise. The International Tiger Summit allowed for a common agenda, attracted financing, and mobilized the political and popular will to carry out the initiatives.
Though the International Tiger Summit established common goals, each country will focus on achievement of the goals through their own available abilities and resources. India, home to the largest population of wild tigers, vowed to construct eight new reserves. Thailand will spend $98.6 million over five years in an attempt to strengthen conservation efforts and undertake the stopping of illegal wildlife trading. Russia and China vowed to work together to establish a cross-boarder protection plan to safeguard extra area for tiger conservation. Both countries also pledged to crack down on poachers. Despite each country strategizing different initiatives, the ultimate goal is for tiger population to double by the next Chinese Year of the Tiger, 2022.
Donor support and multi-government backing continue to provide much needed money to support the Tiger Summit goals. The World Wildlife Fund committed to spend $50 million over the next five years on tiger conservation. WWF hopes to increase that commitment to $85 million. The U.S., a large donor of tiger conservation and protection efforts, announced a $400,000 donation to help Russia protect the Amur tigers. In total the summit plan will require up to $350 million in funding to ensure the planned initiatives can be achieved.
Environmental News Network – 3 December 2010.
The Guardian; 3 December 2010.