Monday, 14 July 2008

Erasing the Tiger, Losing the Habitat

Below is my posted comments to the World Bankblog titled "Hot passion, tigers --and shoe shops" by Tony Whitten, about its new Tiger Initiative which reports the South China Tiger “extinct in the 1990’s”.
Please visit the blog to see other comments:

Erasing the Tiger, Losing the Habitat
Submitted by Li Quan (not verified) on Mon, 07/14/2008 - 06:12

As founder of Save China’s Tigers I welcomed the World Bank’s decision to support conservation of the world’s endangered tigers. It was with profound shock and regret that I saw South China tiger listed as ‘extinct’ in your report.

It has become apparent in this blog that certain participants well-known to this organization have influenced the bank to disregard the opinions of organizations such as IUCN and other respected conservationists on the status of the South China Tiger. It is also apparent that undue importance has been attributed to a single study by Ron Tilson et al. in which Tilson concluded the tiger was ‘functionally extinct’ in the wild.

We selected Ron Tilson, invited him to China and co-funded his survey in spite of advice of many individuals from large conservation organizations who told me that Tilson was not suited to do the survey job. However, I choose Tilson because he wrote a paper in 1998 "The Impending extinction of the South China Tigers in the wild", and concluded that he had some interests in helping China resurrecting the South China Tiger.

After completion of the study he promptly declared the South China Tigers extinct in the wild in the Vancouver Sun paper, prior to the release of the Oryx report. This conclusion was disputed by the Chinese conservationist who conducted the field study and issued their own report. I have not understood Tilson’s motivations for his unsupported conclusions and rejection of anecdotal evidence. However, his motivations become obvious with his planned "South China Tiger/Indochinese Tiger Reintroduction Project". If, may we ask, he declared the South China Tigers extinct, where would he get the tigers to be introduced to Hupingshan? According to IUCN guidelines, one cannot introduce a species or subspecies unless the local population is considered extinct. Coincidence?

I’d like to reprise Tilson’s conclusion from his 1998 article: “The captive population, for better or for worse, may be all that is left against total extinction of this subspecies. To paraphrase the words of a noted environmental philosopher (Leopold, 1953), the first rule of intelligent tinkering is not to throw away any of the pieces.” A premature declaration of extinction for the South China tiger is unconscionable and I strongly urge the World Bank to reassess this unfortunate declaration.

No comments: