Tiger habitat down from just a decade ago|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|07/21/06 at 08:23:14|Obadiah|xx|0|86.131.100.7|Tiger habitat down from just a decade ago

The most comprehensive scientific study of tiger habitats ever done finds
that the big cats reside in 40 percent less habitat than they were thought
to a decade ago.  The tigers now occupy just 7 percent of their historic
range.

This landmark study, produced by some of the world's leading tiger
scientists at WWF, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Smithsonian's National
Zoological Park and Save The Tiger Fund, calls for specific international
actions to safeguard remaining populations. The study finds that
conservation efforts such as protection from poaching, preservation of prey
species and preservation of tigers' natural habitat have resulted in some
populations remaining stable and even increasing. But it concludes that
long-term success is only achieved where there is a broad landscape-level
conservation vision with buy-in from stakeholders.

"This report documents a low-water mark for tigers, and charts a way forward
to reverse the tide," said John Robinson of the Wildlife Conservation
Society. "We can save tigers forever. However, tiger conservation requires
commitment from local partners, governments and international donors, along
with effective, science-based conservation efforts to bring the species back
to all parts of its biological range."

Synthesizing land-use information, maps of human influence and on-the-ground
evidence of tigers, the study identifies 76 "tiger conservation
landscapes" - places that have the best chance of supporting viable tiger
populations into the future. Large carnivore populations like tigers are
highly vulnerable to extinction in small and isolated reserves. Half the 76
landscapes can still support 100 tigers or more, providing excellent
opportunities for recovery of wild tiger populations.  The largest tiger
landscapes exist in the Russian Far East and India.  Southeast Asia also
holds promise to sustain healthy tiger populations although many areas have
lost tigers over the last 10 years.

"As tiger range spans borders, so must tiger conservation," said Heather
Sohl, Species Officer at WWF-UK.  "Asia's economic growth must not come at
the expense of tiger habitat and the natural capital it protects."

The group's key conclusion from the study is that to safeguard remaining
tigers, increased protection of the 20 highest priority tiger conservation
landscapes is required. The group also stands ready to support the 13
countries with tigers in a regional effort to save the species. The report's
authors suggest that the heads of state of those countries convene a "tiger
summit" to elevate tiger conservation on their countries' agendas.

"Saving wild tigers requires tiger range countries to work together," said
Mahendra Shrestha, director of National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save
The Tiger Fund.  "We have learned many important lessons over the last 10
years and this study provides a blueprint for scientists and the countries
that hold the key for the tigers' survival."

In addition to preserving tiger habitat, conservation groups warn that it is
critical to also address poaching of tigers. Groups say authorities must
curb the demand for the skins and parts of tigers and other Asian big cats
and strengthen enforcement efforts along trade routes, in transit markets
and markets in Asia.

-ends-

NOTES:
* Copies of the study, "Setting Priorities for the Conservation and Recovery
of the World's Tigers 2005-2015," can be downloaded at www.tigermaps.org,
along with fact sheets, high-resolution photos of tigers and other
information.

* The study was funded by Save The Tiger Fund, a partnership between the
ExxonMobil Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and the UN Foundation. It was written by scientists from Wildlife
Conservation Society, WWF and the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park.

* Maps, B-Roll and pictures are available from WWF-UK Press Office

CONTACTS:
David Cowdrey, Head of press WWF-UK 01483 412378, m: 07776 177654
Stephen Sautner, assistant director of conservation communications, Wildlife
Conservation Society, +1 718-220-3682
Brian Gratwicke, assistant director, Save the Tiger Fund, +1 202-857-5156
||