42 bastions to provide solution to tiger crisis

Directing tiger conservation efforts into specific ‘source sites’ across Asia might be key to prevent the extinction

The numbers of tigers in the wild are at a historic low, with only 3500 left, of which only 1000 are breeding females. These tigers today occupy only about 6% of their historical range of about 1.5 million sq. km spread over 13 tiger range states. The principal reason for their decline has been over-hunting, compounded by habitat loss, fragmentation, and inadequate protection in some areas. A team of 21 experts, principally from the Wildlife Conservation Society, who were part of the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) launched in 2008, present a conservation plan for the leaders of the tiger states in The Tiger Summit, held in Russia in November 2010.

The team has identified country wise ‘source sites’ for tiger populations, defined as sites that have tigers in enough numbers to replenish the population in the surrounding landscape. There are 42 such sites housing almost 70% of the remnant wild tigers. The costs of protecting these sites, including increased law enforcement monitoring, and where appropriate, community engagement, informant networks, and trade monitoring is estimated at US$930/sq. km/year, which is well within the range of costs of effective protected areas in general. More than half of these funds are already being committed by range-state governments, international donors, and NGOs.

India—with 18 tiger source sites currently housing 967 tigers (potential population size of 1671 tigers), and more importantly, enough funds for intensive protection- is extremely important for the continued existence of tigers. A combination of effective protection of source sites and a landscape level management plan has potential to bring the tiger back from the brink of extinction.

Further reading
Walston J et al. 2010. Bringing the Tiger Back from the Brink-The Six Percent Solution. PLoS Biology 8: e1000485.

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2010 Jun