Read Beyond The Stripes, the new WWF Report on tigers is essential reading for anybody interested in these iconic big cats and explores how their survival is tied to so much else besides.
It’s wonderful that these amazing creatures are now serving as the locus for habitat preservation and rehabilitation that is benefiting a very wide range of other creatures and huge numbers of people through ecosystem services worth billions of $US.
“It is often assumed that conservation limits development and is a net drain on national economies. But the evidence presented in this report suggests that the co-benefits of conservation have been massively undervalued. Tiger habitats supply many valuable ecosystem services, particularly carbon capture and water filtration, as well as supporting other important and endangered species.” WWF
These are important species in their own right and also include such wildlife icons as Asian elephants, Asian rhinos and Orangutans. See the diagram on p22. for a clear graphic representation of the 17 UN millennium sustainability goals addressed by tiger conservation.
Tigers are traditional symbols of protection in many Asian cultures and it is interesting to see that proper tiger conservation additionally:
protects watersheds that serve up to 830 million people, helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon in forests that would likely otherwise be cut and helps reduce the impacts of natural disasters such as tsunamis and landslides.
A lot of good research has gone into this report and it is great to see the accounting for ecosystem services on page 23. Some pretty remarkable figures for use in the defense of habitat preservation in the face of rampant land development pressure.
“It has been estimated that globally protected areas generate over US$600 billion per annum in revenue from visitors” according to WWF in the report, they cite a “single well known tigress in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India, (that) was responsible for revenues of over US$103 million in the first decade of her life, through park fees, lodging, taxes and services fees.
She also effectively employed over 3,000 local people according to Travel Operators for Tigers.”
Her offspring continue that legacy today.
The executive summary puts the situation very well, I think:
“If tigers are to survive this century and beyond, their home range urgently needs to be protected and restored. This requires sustained support from governments, business and civil society at large, particularly from tiger range states. Tigers are apex predators and a classic landscape species. They need large numbers of prey; use many habitats across wide areas; play a key role in ecosystem function; have high socio-economic significance; and are vulnerable to human interference. If the landscape is not large, diverse and protected enough, tigers will not survive.”
And that would be very, very, bad news for a lot of reasons made clear in this report, not least for the people in Maharashtra State who depend upon the protective patrols of wildlife rangers to additionally guard them from bandits (p.56).
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is quoted in the report as saying “We need to define conservation as a means to achieve development rather than considering it to be anti-growth. I strongly believe that tiger conservation or conservation of nature is not a drag on development.”
I fervently hope that regional development can indeed couple the “rapid economic growth synonymous with the “Tiger Economies” with securing vital ecosystem services which underpin the survival of us all.
Long live the tigers, I say! God bless them, those who protect them and those living under the protective umbrella of tiger conservation’s collateral benefits.