Top Story: September 15, 2010

Saving Wild Tigers Now

Siberian-tigers-in-snow-BZ-02-03-09

I admit I’m not a Yankees fan (Go A’s!), but even if I were, I would still trade Alex Rodriguez in order to save wild tigers.

It’s not news that tigers are in trouble. Fewer than 3,500 tigers remain in the wild, of which only about 1,000 are breeding females. They are threatened by overhunting of both tigers and their prey, and by loss and fragmentation of habitat. Much of the decline is being driven by the demand for tiger body parts used in traditional medicines.

Their situation may sound hopeless, but yesterday a group of scientists and conservationists published an article in PLoS Biology outlining ways in which this majestic animal can be saved from extinction.

They make it pretty simple: 70% of the remaining tigers live in just 6% of their current range. Focusing conservation efforts on the that 6% range and specifically, 42 source sites that are mostly in India, Sumatra and the Russian Far East, would be the most efficient way to save these big cats.

The authors calculate the total required annual cost of effectively managing these source sites to be $82 million, which includes the cost of law enforcement, wildlife monitoring, community involvement, and other factors.  From the New York Times:

The cost of these efforts is quite modest, according to John G. Robinson of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, one of the authors of the paper. He said that protecting the 42 source sites would cost $82 million a year, more than half of which is already being provided by governments. The remainder — about $35 million — is roughly what the Yankees pay Alex Rodriguez each year in salary and benefits, Mr. Robinson noted.

“The tiger is facing its last stand as a species," said Dr. Robinson. "As dire as the situation is for tigers, the Wildlife Conservation Society is confident that the world community will come together to save these iconic big cats from the brink for future generations. This study gives us a roadmap to make that happen.”

It’s not impossible. According to Wired:

Tiger populations can rebuild quickly since they have litters of up to four or five cubs every year. As long as they are given space, food and continued protection from poaching over the long term, they will have a fast recovery, [World Wildlife Fund scientist Eric] Dinerstein said.

Image by Julie Larsen Maher/Wildlife Conservation Society

comments

Previous Top Stories

 

About Science Today

Science Today is the California Academy of Sciences’ channel for current stories on cutting-edge technologies, life, Earth, space and sustainability. Content is produced in-house and is distributed throughout the museum, on the internet and through various partners. Please share your comments on what you find important in the changing world of science.