Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Missing the point, missing the tiger.

Below is a supporter’s posted comments on a World Bank blog about its new Tiger Initiative which reports the South China Tiger “extinct in the 1990’s”
Please visit the blog to see other comments:

Misinformation in Initiative's Report
Submitted by Gary Verstick on Wed, 07/02/2008 - 07:19.
Many involved in tiger conservation welcome the Bank’s ‘passion’ for saving the tigers. However, it is with sadness and amazement that I find that the subspecies of tiger -the South China Tiger is declared “extinct in the 1990’s” in the Initiative’s report. The South China tiger (panthera tigris amoyensis) is critically endangered and faces many challenges such as genetics, limited numbers, loss of habitat and a major conservation organization that has declared them ‘functionally extinct’. Thankfully, in spite of these challenges, the ancestral stem subspecies of all tigers is still very much alive.
There are 67 in Chinese zoos and there are many scientists who believe there are still 20 or 30 roaming the wilds of China. The Chinese government has been trying to rescue this subspecies working with an International organization. Three South China Tiger cubs were born recently in South Africa under a special program. However, it makes the efforts to save this tiger much harder when a large prestigious organization such as the Bank has unilaterally declared it extinct.
You mention the planning was subjected to infighting, misinformation and bitterness – and this is well documented in Cory Meacham's book "How the tiger Lost its Stripes". You also mention certain groups decided not to associate themselves. Well, I am sure that the Chinese government and the organizations working on the South China Tigers would have appreciated any support from the WB. I only hope that as the Initiative moves forward, your ‘passion’ will help fix some of the misinformation and injustices remaining in your report.

Missing the point, missing the tiger.
Submitted by Gary Verstick on Tue, 07/08/2008 - 13:50.
Moss and Roubaix have missed the point entirely. I know of no scientist or conservationist (including Tilson) who declare the South China Tiger extinct. Some regard it as “functionally extinct” or “extinct in the wilds” and certainly “critically endangered”, “extinct” no. The World Bank is the first to unilaterally declare the species extinct, and not only that, “extinct in the 1990’s”!
I will not argue how many South China tigers exist in the wild. I do know that Tilson's much quoted report is highly debated. It took 1000 trap nights to catch one tiger in Burma where the density is much higher than in China. Tilson also recognized the need for more study: “While no direct sightings have taken place, this evidence suggests that South China tigers may still persist in a number of localities but where and how many are not scientifically validated yet. The potential distribution area covers 11 natural geographical units and is about 90,000 km2, with six of the 11 units covering about 18,000 km2.”
Thanx Moss for your Tilson quote, maybe you should read it: “We conclude that continued field efforts are needed to ascertain whether any wild tigers may yet persist, concurrent with the need to consider options for the eventual recovery and restoration of wild tiger populations from existing captive populations." Roubaix’s godlike judgement that “the necessary habitat conditions no longer exist for a viable recovery” is nonsense – even Tilson has proposed habitat reclamation using Indo-chinese tigers and restocked prey.
Further, it is generally considered bad conservation practice (by the IUCN) to declare a species extinct when the numbers are very low, because it takes away incentives for local people to conserve the habitat and gives commercial interests an excuse to access the area, since the "disappearance" of a keystone species signals the habitat need not merit protection anymore. Regardless of the wild population, a responsible organization like that of the World Bank should be helping the Chinese government’s initiative to restore habitat and reintroduce tigers to the wild, instead of unilaterally condemning the last remaining South China tigers to extinction, simply because it is expedient. This goes against all the grand words in the Tiger Initiative, or is the initiative just some sort of conservation lip service?

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