Things are already looking optimistic for tigers this new year as the Wildlife Conservation Society announced significant progress for tigers in three key landscapes across the big cats' range due to better law enforcement, protection of additional habitat, and strong government partnerships.
The news begins in southwestern India where WCS research and conservation efforts that began 25 years ago now show a major rebound of tigers in the Western Ghats region of Karnataka State. Over 600 individual animals have been identified to date from camera trap photos during the last decade in the mountainous region of Western Ghats (Kamataka State), India, as well as in Nagarahole and Bandipur National Parks, where tigers have actually “reached saturation levels." In fact, a "surplus"of young tigers have been spilling out into forest-reserves and dispersing using secured forest corridors through a landscape that holds is also home to over a million people.
This, in turn, has led to the establishment of new tigers reserves including Bhadra and Kudremukh, where their numbers have doubled after years and neglect, as well as rampant poaching.
In addition, WCS conservationists report a tiger comeback in Huai Kha Khaeng, a 1,042 square mile wildlife sanctuary in the western forests of Thailand, after authorities busted a notorious poaching gang in the area last year. The gang leaders were given prison sentences of up to five years – the most severe punishments for wildlife poaching in Thailand’s history. Since their capture, there have been no known tiger or elephant poaching incidents in the park. Tiger numbers have been rising steadily in the park since 2007, with a record 50-plus tigers counted last year.
Meanwhile Russian government officials are drafting a new law that will make transport, sales, and possession of endangered animals a criminal offense rather than just a civil crime. “This will close a loophole that currently allows poachers to claim they found endangered species like tigers already dead and thus avoid stiffer criminal penalties for poaching, stated John Robinson, WCS Executive Vice President of Conservation and Science.
”Russia is also making progress by creating additional protected areas for tigers, including a new corridor called Central Ussuri Wildlife Refuge on October 18. The new refuge acts as a linkage between the Sikhote-Alin tiger population in Russia, which is the main population of Amur tigers, and some of the best tiger habitat in China’s Heilongjiang Province in the Wandashan Mountains.”