Concerted efforts are needed among Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) to protect and recover the world’s wild tiger population. These countries take numerous initiatives, including hosting the Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation (AMC).
The fourth edition of the conference, AMC4, was held recently online. One of its side events, entitled ‘Tiger Recovery and Active Management’, saw the discussion between experts on their efforts to recover the tiger populations. The session, moderated by Dr Catrini Kubontubuh, featured Dr David Magintan, Dr Suwanna Gauntlett, Dr Thomas Gray and Dr Grigoriy Mazmaniants.
Malayan tiger conservation
Magintan is in charge of the National Wildlife Rescue Centre (NWRC), Department of Wildlife and National Parks of Peninsular Malaysia.
According to Magintan, the centre was established under Section 7, the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 (Act 686). It was a centre for endangered wildlife species rescued from injuries, smuggling activities, seizure and surrender in Peninsular Malaysia.
“At the centre currently, we have 19 Malayan tigers, consisting of eight males and eleven females. The latest Malayan tiger brought into the centre was a male tiger from Terengganu. It was trapped from the conflict area and brought in in August 2021,” he shared.
The Malayan tiger complexes at the centre consisted of five blocks, 20 night stalls and 10 exercise yards (0.15 acre). The centre was responsible for the Malayan Tiger Breeding Programme, research, rescue operations, farming, awareness programme, and regular health check-up of the Malayan tigers.
“We are doing a natural breeding programme. Then, we are doing an assisted reproductive technology (ART) programme, which is also part of our staff’s capacity building. We (also) pair our tigers with other tigers from zoos.
“We have ongoing research on Malayan tigers, such as the behaviour of Malayan tiger in captivity. Other than that, there’s also a study on genetics, reproduction and hormones. The researchers are from the department itself and also from other research institutions and universities.”
Tiger reintroduction in Cambodia
Gauntlett, the Chief Executive Officer of Wildlife Alliance, said Cambodia had lost its tiger since 2007.
“There were two last known sightings during that year, and since then, the government has published that tigers are extinct in the landscape. That’s why the Royal Government of Cambodia is committed to reintroducing tigers back
into its priority landscapes. The priority landscape is the Cardamom Rainforest landscape in Southwest Cambodia,” she explained.
She said the government chose the landscape because it had effective law enforcement, such as patrolling by well-trained professional rangers. The patrolling itineraries were recorded every 100 metres by the global positioning system (GPS) and reported for the geographic information system (GIS) mapping.
“Most importantly, tigers need to have a sufficient prey base. In the Cardamom Rainforest landscape, we have conducted four systematic camera trap surveys,” said Gauntlett before emphasising the importance of sustainable financing and community engagement.
Natural tiger range expansion
Gray, the Tiger Recovery Lead of WWF-Greater Mekong, shared that tigers currently were in less than six per cent of their historic range. He said there used to be tigers in Mongolia, Georgia and Cambodia. Now, breeding tigers were only present in 10 countries, less than a third of the historic tiger range countries.
Gray stated that the Global Tiger Summit in September 2022 would provide an opportunity to reflect on whether ‘TX2’ – doubling the number of wild tigers had been achieved and help identify new and bold goals for tiger conservation across the next 12 years of a tiger cycle and beyond.
“There’s an increasing call for such goals to involve tiger range expansion. New landscapes, new countries, (are) returning tigers to the ecosystems they’re absent from,” said Gray, sharing that increasing prey populations and generating community support were critical in this effort.
“Prey translocations and prey recovery is perhaps the single most important tiger conservation and range expansion activity in many landscapes,” he added.
Gray shared that WWF’s Tiger Alive undertook an analysis to identify areas across the former range of tigers with similar levels of human activity to areas currently occupied by a tiger. The data from the analysis was used to extrapolate where else in the countries tigers could be put back. He then showed the map where a potential tiger range expansion might happen.
“Of course, many of these expansion areas on this map may not be possible for ecological, political or social reasons. But,
we hope that a map like this, an analysis like this, can provide a blueprint for governments, civil society and the public to help identify new and ambitious goals for tiger conservation.”
Tiger’s return to Kazakhstan
Mazmaniants, the Director of the Central Asian Programme of WWF-Russia, then shared the tiger reintroduction programme in Kazakhstan. He said Kazakhstan promised to return the roar to the country in 2010 during the International Tiger Forum in St Petersburg.
The determination was supported by the then Prime Minister of Russia (now President), Vladimir Putin, who promised to donate some tigers to Kazakhstan for the reintroduction programme. From 2010 to 2016, the programme was developed together with WWF. In 2017, the WWF and Kazakhstan government signed a memorandum on the agenda.
According to Mazmaniants, the programme would be carried out in stages, such as:
• 2018 to 2022: Ecosystem restoration, increasing the density of ungulates
• 2025 to 2030: First tigers release
• 2030 to 2034: Monitoring of population
• 2035 and above: Goal to reach 100 tigers
“In 2018, the State natural reserve, Ile-Balkhash, was established, and the size is 415 K ha. There was around 700 K ha of sanctuaries. Additionally, the Balkhash-Kapchagay regional ecological corridor was created. From 2018, the protection (effort) has been established. Modern technologies have been introduced,” he said.
He further explained that some technologies included SMART patrolling, UAV monitoring and satellite fire control.
“During these four years, the population
of ungulates, especially wild boars,
increased from five to eleven individuals
per 1000 ha.”