Tiger conservation can support the realization of UN Sustainable Development Goals in Asia | WWF India

Tiger conservation can support the realization of UN Sustainable Development Goals in Asia

Posted on
29 November 2017
New Delhi: Money invested by governments, aid agencies and funds raisedby supporters across the globe to save wild tigers have unseen benefits for Asia’s wildlife and millions of people, according to a new WWF report - Beyond the Stripes: Save tigers, Save So Much More.
 
Tiger landscapes - which range from the world’s largest mangrove forests in the Sundarbans, to temperate forests in the snowy mountains of Bhutan - overlap with globally-important ecosystems, many of which are part of Asia’s last wilderness. These biodiversity-rich areas harbour a wealth of critically important goods and services that millions of people rely on, from mitigating climate change and safeguarding freshwater to reducing the impact of natural disasters and improving the health of local people. Yet, wild tigers are endangered, and their habitats are threatened; having lost 95 per cent of their global range, the cats are now confined to fragmented populations in Asia’s surviving forest habitats. Close to half (43 per cent) of the present suitable tiger habitat could soon be lost to unsustainable agriculture expansion and urbanization.[1][2]
 
“Every dollar invested in saving the wild tiger also helps save many threatened species, and ecosystem services that are critical to millions of people,” said Michael Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tigers Alive. “Protecting the vast landscapes where tigers thrive helps to regulate freshwater, reduce the impacts of climate change and provide a source of clean air, medicinal plants, jobs, and so much more.”
 
Ensuring Water Security:
According to the report, securing tiger landscapes could help protect at least nine major watersheds, which regulate and provide freshwater for up to 830 million people in Asia, including in urban areas across India, Malaysia and Thailand, apart from other benefits and opportunities for thousands of species and millions of people.
 
With one of the largest contiguous tiger populations in India, the southern state of Karnatakahas recently seen the expansion of their protected areas network by 2,385 square kilometres[3]. These protected areas not only support a large diversity of wildlifebut also conserve watersheds, including those of 16 rivers, such as the Cauvery, Nethravathi, Paalar, Bhadra, Varahi, Gundia, Kumaradhara, Seetha and Kaali Rivers, which are critical for the water security of the region.
 
Natural forests also discharge purer water, and reduce sediment reaching rivers, streams and reservoirs, with direct social and economic benefits. The Ramganga River watershed, largely inside Corbett National Park in India, a tiger stronghold, is a clear example. From 1974 to 2010, a downstream dam has generated electricity worth US$41 million along with 88,000 million cubic metre of irrigation water, without direct investment in catchment treatment or significant siltation.[4]
 
High Economic Value:
According to the report, every hectare protected as tiger habitat provides multiple services, whose monetary values can add up to several thousand dollars per hectare per year. Several studies have assessed the value of ecosystem services and natural capital, from large-scale landscape-level valuations to specific studies in protected areas with tigers. While estimates vary depending on habitat and management regime, all indicate the high economic and social value of natural ecosystems. The total value of tropical forest and mangrove ecosystems per hectare per year has been estimated at around US$5,500[5][6] and US$4,000[7] respectively; a value rarely accounted for by governments or fed back into conservation funding.
 
In India, the total value of nine ecosystem services in the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) in Uttarakhand (where the Corbett and Rajaji National parks are located) was calculated at six billion US$ in 2015-16,[8] indicating that the contribution of the ecosystem to the human community is higher than the total income of the community of the region.These values are made up of a range of benefits, which includesprovisioning services like, water (used for agriculture, hydropower, drinking water), fuel wood, and fodder; regulating services like carbon sequestration, and microclimate regulation; and cultural services like tourism (nature and pilgrimage). With more than half the population in TAL earning less than US$ 1.9 per day, it is critical to take into account the net cost of losing ecosystem servicesalso defined as ‘GDP of the poor’[9]and the impacts of this on the rural communities.
 
Speaking about the significance of the report, Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India, said, “As an apex predator, tigers are a classic landscape species that use habitats across wide areas and play a key role in ecosystem function. Investment in tiger habitats will produce significant co-benefits and economic opportunities for people and other species that live in the tiger range. The conservation of the species will help protect not only the tiger but secure natural capital and ecosystem services required to underpin sustainable development for the Asia region as a whole.”
 
Perhaps the most important message of the reportis that investments in tiger conservationis by no means a diversion from other global development priorities. The global collaborative goal of doubling wild tiger numbers embodies the larger goal of conserving and managing sustainably up to 1.2 million square kilometres of habitat suitable for tigers across the 13 tiger range countries in Asia,[10]which in turn provide the goods and services vital for sustainable human development.
 
Notes to Editor:
This report is launched on the seventh anniversary month of the St Petersburg Tiger Summit, where TX2 - the global goal to double the number of wild tigers by 2022 - was committed to by 13 tiger range governments in 2010.Learn more about TX2 and how WWF is driving the global goal to double tigers at tigers.panda.org.
 
For media queries, please contact:
Rituparna Sengupta, Senior Manager, Campaigns, Brand and Media, WWF-India
Email: rsengupta@wwfindia.net; Phone: 011-41504797
 
Indira Akoijam, Communications Manager, Species and Landscapes, WWF-India
Email: iakoijam@wwfindia.net; Phone: 011-41504783
 
About WWF-India
WWF-India is one of the largest conservation organizations in the country, engaged in wildlife and nature conservation. It has an experience of over four decades in the field and has made its presence felt through a sustained effort not only towards nature and wildlife conservation, but also through sensitizing people by creating awareness through capacity building and enviro-legal activism. The key areas of the work of WWF-India include conservation of key wildlife species and their habitats, management of rivers, wetlands and their eco-systems, promoting sustainable livelihoods, environment education and awareness activities within a variety of social structures, mitigating the impacts of climate change, transforming businesses and markets towards sustainability and combating illegal wildlife trade.
 
A part of WWF International, one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF-India has a nationwide presence in the country with over 60 state and field offices distributed over 20 states. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
 
[1]Sodhi, N.S., Koh, L.P., Brook, B.W. and Ng, P.K.L. 2004. Southeast Asia biodiversity: an impending disaster. Trends in Ecology and Evolution
19 (12): 654-660.
[2]Seidensticker, J. 2016. Biodiversity resilience in the Central IndianHighlands is contingent on maintaining and recovering landscape
connectivity: the tiger as a case study. Regional Environmental Change16 (Suppl 1): S167-S179.
[3]Gubbi, et al. 2016. Op cit
[4]Badola, R., Hussain, S.A., Mishra, B.K., Konthoujam, B., Thapliyal, S. and Dhakate, P.M. 2010. An assessment of ecosystem services of
Corbett Tiger Reserve, India. The Environmentalist 30: 320-329.
[5]deGroot, et al. 2012. Op cit
[6]Carrasco, L.R., Nghiem, T.P.L., Sunderland, T. and Koh, L.P. 2014. Economic valuation of ecosystem services fails to capture biodiversity value of tropical forests. Biological Conservation 178: 163-170.
[7]Brander, L.M., Wagtendon, A.J., Hussain, S.S., McVittie, A., Verburg, P.H., et al. 2012. Ecosystem service values for mangroves in Southeast
Asia: a meta-analysis and value transfer application. Ecosystem Services 1: 62-69.
[8]Ghosh, Nilanjan, Ghose, Dipankar, Areendran, G., Mehra, Divya, Paliwal, Ambica,Raj, Krishna, Rajasekariah, Kiran, Sharma, Ambika, Singh, Anil Kumar, Srinivasan, Shashank & Worah, Sejal, “Valuing Ecosystem Services at the Landscape Level: The Case of the Terai Arc Landscape in Uttarakhand”, Policy Research and Innovation Division, Issue Brief No. 2 (New Delhi: WWF-India, 2016)
[9]TEEB (2010): The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity: Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions, and Recommendationsof TEEB.
[10]Global Tiger Initiative Secretariat. 2011. Global Tiger Recovery Program 2010-2022. The World Bank, Washington DC.

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