Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Good news for tigers

We hear a lot about the depressing fate of tigers in India and elsewhere. Numbers continue to fall, and last year they were declared extinct in Sariska National Park. However, it is not all doom and gloom.

When I was in India over Christmas I visited Nagahole National Park and was told that tigers are doing well there, and that they were also increasing in Corbett National Park. A depressing fact is that a worryingly large proportion of the money spent on tiger conservation over the past 40 years or so, has probably been watsed. Tigers now only survive in viable populations inside National Parks and other protected areas.

Huge amounts of money have been spent on public education, and protecting tigers outside the protected area network. But if all that money had been spent on ensuring the integrity of the best reserves, with the largest populations, and if money had been spent on corridors between protected areas, the tiger population would probably be in far better shape now. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but what is now apparent to me, and everyone else at the WLT, is that our approach is certainly one of the approaches most likely to succeed in conserving wildlife. Over the 20 brief years that the WLT has been in existence, we have evolved an approach, which seems to have a very high chance of success -- building on and strengthening existing successful local NGOs, and expanding protected areas, based on biodiversity, and creating networks and corridors.

One of the corridors our Indian partners, the Wildlife Trust of India, have created for elephants, has already been used by tigers. Corridors are expensive, as the land needed is often expensive, but in the long-term, it is a very cost effective way of conserving endangered species. Donate now, and ear-mark it for corridor projects. We can't predict the land will be £25 an acre (sometimes is may be £2500 an acre or more) but we can predict that even a small corridor will have disproportionate benefits to the wildlife.

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