Friday, 30 June 2017

Anti-poaching drive brings Siberia’s tigers back from brink

A WWF appeal aims to highlight the threat of habitat destruction and climate change on wild populations

Robin McKie Science editor
Saturday 24 June 2017 20.10 BST Last modified on Saturday 24 June 2017 22.30 BST 

In February, Pavel Fomenko was told that the body of a young female tiger had been discovered underneath a car parked outside the town of Luchegorsk, in eastern Russia. Fomenko – head of rare species conservation for WWF Russia – took the corpse for examination where he uncovered the grim details of the animal’s death.

The Amur tiger, which is also known as the Siberian tiger, had been caught in a trap and had chewed off a paw to free itself. It was left crippled, unable to hunt, and died of starvation while seeking shelter under the car. “Hearing about this sort of thing is always painful,” said Fomenko. “This was a beautiful tigress.” It is harrowing scenes such as these that conservation groups are hoping will become increasingly rare in the years to come. Later this week, WWF will launch an appeal that aims not just to halt the decline in tiger numbers but to boost them to new levels. The goal is to increase the world’s tiger population in the wild to more than 6,000 by 2022, the next Chinese year of the tiger. In this way, it should be possible to achieve global security for this poster boy and girl of the conservation movement.
The death of the tigress found under the car is tempered by the knowledge that the Amur is part of a global wild tiger population that has started to rise, albeit marginally, after decades of decline. The world lost 97% of its tiger population in a little over a century, but last year, WWF reported that global numbers in the wild had risen from 3,200 in 2010 to about 3,900 in 2016, thanks to the introduction of anti-poaching patrols, habitat protection and other measures.

“The increase in tiger numbers is encouraging but the species’ future in its natural environment still hangs in the balance and numbers remain perilously low,” said Rebecca May, WWF’s tiger specialist. “There now needs to be an enormous push forward to build on this progress. We need commitment and urgent action from all governments of ‘tiger-range’ countries [where tigers still roam free], as well as the passion and unwavering support of the public.”

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