More than a dozen Asian nations aim to double the numbers of wild tigers by 2022 and prohibit the building of roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects that could harm their habitats.
However, a draft declaration that was to be adopted by the 13 countries on Friday includes no new money to finance the conservation efforts which scientists said must be more than doubled. The draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, mentions only a commitment from countries to use money from eco-tourism, carbon financing and infrastructure projects to pay for tiger programs.
“With political will and implementation of the needed action, the extinction of the wild tigers across much of their range can be averted,” the declaration states. “Tiger conservation is important to protect biodiversity and preserve a vital part of our national heritage.”
Officials at the first Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation were to adopt the declaration on Friday. It will then be considered for approval by heads of state of the 13 countries in September at a meeting in Vladivostok, Russia.
Tiger numbers in recent decades have plummeted because of human encroachment — with the loss of more than nine-tenths of their habitat — and poaching to supply a vibrant trade in tiger parts. From an estimated 1,00,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, the number of tigers today are less than 3,500.
John Seidensticker, head of conservation ecology at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and chairman of the Save the Tiger Fund, said the draft declaration included all the components for ensuring a steady recovery of tigers.
Along with a target for doubling tiger populations, countries would agree to protect core tiger habitats as well as buffer zones and corridors that connect key sanctuaries and national parks. The declaration also supports maintaining a permanent ban on the trade of tiger parts and reducing poaching through beefed-up law enforcement.
“If we get everything done in this declaration, we will turn tiger populations around so in fact it’s a positive not a negative,” Seidensticker said. “For me, I’m very happy with this.”
The meeting which opened on Wednesday was organized by Thailand and the Global Tiger Initiative, a coalition formed in 2008 by the World Bank, the Smithsonian Institute and nearly 40 conservation groups. It aims to double tiger numbers by 2022.
The 13 countries attending the meeting are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.