October 26, 2009
The World Wildlife Fund had some good news today. In fact, all of us did.
The Government of Nepal has just announced an expansion of Bardia National Park in the Terai Arc Landscape by 900 sq km, which will increase critical habitat for tigers.
Plans for the expansion were revealed at the inaugural session of the Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop, held this week with 200 international delegates. The Kathmandu Global Tiger Workshop is the first in a series of political negotiation meetings occurring throughout the year and leading up to a final Heads of State Tiger Summit in September 2010, which is the Year of the Tiger.
Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal attended and stated that the government would establish a National Tiger Conservation Authority as well as a Wildlife Crime Control Committee saying, "The solutions will be area specific, but the future of conservation will depend upon how we act now and how we make tiger conservation and overall biodiversity much more valuable to the livelihoods of local communities."
"This is indeed a great conservation initiative, which will certainly help in curbing illegal wildlife trade and poaching in Nepal," said Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal. "We are confident that by embracing innovative conservation strategies Nepal will succeed in doubling its number of endangered tigers."
Earlier this year the first ever nation-wide estimate of the tiger population revealed the presence of only 121 breeding tigers in the wild within four protected areas of Nepal. In order to ensure that these tiger numbers remain stable and start to increase, WWF and its partners called on the government to increase anti-poaching activities and habitat protection.
"In making these commitments at a global forum before the 12 other tiger range countries, the Government of Nepal has set an important precedent for others to follow," said Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF's Tiger Initiative. "The next three days of the workshop are vital as countries and tiger experts band together to create a game-changing plan to save tigers in the wild."
Poaching is the most urgent and immediate threat to tigers. Illegal trade in skins and tiger body parts remains highly profitable in China and other Asian countries – particularly China, where tiger parts are believed to be aphrodisiacs.
Note to China: Viagra is alive and well, but time is running out for the survival of tigers. The worldwide population of tigers is estimated to be below 3,500 animals, down from 100,000 one century ago.
Experts estimate that a single tiger trades for about $1,000 in Nepali markets, but will fetch at least $10,000 internationally.
The Government of Nepal should be applauded for hosting the international workshop. It is also hosted by the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, and cosponsored by the CITES Secretariat, Global Tiger Forum, Global Tiger Initiative, Save The Tiger Fund, and World Bank.
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