(Rotterdam, The Netherlands) – 25th of September 2019
After praising India for showing great results in tiger conservation, the new number of wild tigers has been revised to 4642, based on available data, said Chris Slappendel, founder of the IATA Tiger News Platform.
The new numbers are compiled from the latest national tiger surveys, IUCN data and realistic estimations from reliable sources. Compared with 2010 – a major moment in tiger history when in St. Petersburg (Russia) countries, NGOs, IGOs committed to doubling the amount of tigers to 6,400 – this new number of wild tigers is a big step forward. The current increase can be attributed to the fast growing tiger population in India. However, the rising numbers distract from what is really happening on ground level.
“Since 2010 we see the same things happening as before. Agriculture (palm oil), mining and encroachment are leading to destruction of tiger habitat. International operating crime syndicates are inducing the Chinese demand for tigers and tiger products, and use tiger farms to deliver the supply while fuelling the demand for tigers in the wild. Unsustainable tourism is expanding with more exploitation of tigers in captivity and more unwanted situations in and around tiger reserves,” said Frederic Geffroy, founder of Planete Tigre, a tiger NGO in France, with almost nine hundred thousand worried followers.
The situation of tigers has worsened if looked beyond the new numbers. Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos failed in executing the plans agreed during the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit, resulting in a situation where tigers are ‘functionally extinct’. Malaysia expects to announce the results of their recent census soon but an estimated number of 200 tigers shows that Malaysia has lost around 60 (!) per cent of its tigers since 2010. Myanmar’s tiger population suffers greatly from domestic instability, with a growing influence of wildlife trade hubs serving mainly Chinese customers, as well as in Laos and Vietnam.
The situation in Sumatra (Indonesia) is a mystery. In 2010 a number of 325 tigers was presented but this appeared to be an estimated guess. Like Malaysia, Indonesia invested heavily in palm oil development in recent years, resulting in an ongoing destruction of tiger habitat. Sources on the ground however indicate that, at this moment, the real number of tigers is closer to 500. So while the situation has worsened, the ‘official’ number of tigers will grow when the results of the next census of Sumatran tigers will be presented.
Even in an apparently successful country like India, things are not what they seem. While the census shows a great success, the reality is that India has the most human-tiger conflicts, the most seized tiger products and the highest poaching numbers of all tiger range countries, according to the recently published report of TRAFFIC, an international watchdog on wildlife crime. The government of India has received also lots of criticism on the methods used with the latest tiger census.
“What we can learn from the last nine years is that not all governments are reliable when it comes to tiger conservation. This needs to change drastically. The world needs a governing vehicle that can step up when things don’t go according to plan, like in Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and Cambodia. The UN seems to be the most logical organization but the UN needs to see tiger conservation as a priority. The World Bank, key-initiator of the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit, left the stage without a decent transfer of its role and commitment. CITES is only interested in regulating the trade and is generally considered as a ‘paper tiger’. Next to the UN there is only one organization that can do it, which is WWF. But unfortunately WWF is under constant questioning and criticism from lots of other NGOs,” says Slappendel who refers to the new numbers as a devil in disguise.
“People who read that the numbers are going up, really think it’s getting better. But it is not. Despite all the help of NGOs, volunteers, law enforcers and all others that work hard to make a better world for tigers. If we want to save tigers, the world needs to do more”, Slappendel concludes.