Since the St Petersburg tiger summit, the Tiger Range Countries meet regularly to report progress on tiger conservation. This is the chance for the world to have an estimate of the world wild tiger population. In April this year, IUCN brought a small delegation to New Delhi.
The 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation (3AMC) marks the mid-point in the implementation of the twelve-year Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP). The GTRP was launched by heads of governments at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit in 2010.
During the Conference representatives of the Tiger Range Countries presented their progress on tiger conservation and outlined future priorities.
The Conference was hosted in New Delhi from the 11th to 14th April by the Global Tiger Forum (GTF). The previous two Asian Ministerial Conferences on Tiger Conservation were held in January 2010 in Hua Hin, Thailand, and in October 2012 in Thimphu, Bhutan. The most recent major meeting of all Tiger Range Countries before this was the 2nd Global Tiger Stocktaking Conference, held in September 2014 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The Conference was inaugurated with a speech by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Also in attendance was Mr Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India.
The inaugural speech focused on:
- The need to harmonize development with tiger conservation. The two are not mutually exclusive, and indeed good development lies within the broader spectrum of conservation and sustainability.
- There was also a shift in focus, with the conservation and restoration of habitats at the landscape scale being one of the priorities for sustainable long-term tiger conservation.
- Also of note was the prioritization of the conservation of meta-populations. This takes into consideration source – sink dynamics and the connectivity of populations within and outside of protected areas. This aligns itself with the point above, and also shows the importance of programmes like the ITHCP, which has a focus on habitats and development.
Individual countries gave a rundown of the status of the tiger populations and activities carried out since the Dhaka meeting in 2014, together with activities planned for the future. A number of countries reported successful increases in tiger populations, and these include India, Nepal, Bhutan and the Russian Federation.
During the meeting, WWF released updates on global tiger population estimates. This is now estimated at 3,890, an increase since the last meeting. This created some controversy as although tiger populations may have increased in absolute numbers, some countries have reported a decrease or even extinction. However it is important to provide the best possible estimates, even if sometimes they are estimates in some cases, as this is what motivates governments and communities. This received great media coverage. Some countries are still data deficient and require more efforts in monitoring and estimating population size. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ estimates were used for other countries. Any existing estimates also show some declines in some countries, including Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia. Finally other countries reported serious demises in their tiger populations, in many cases to the point of extinction. These include Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao PDR. The tiger is an important cultural and spiritual icon in Asia, and countries that have lost their tigers, now really miss them. With two ongoing projects in key tiger sites in Myanmar, IUCN Tiger Programme aims to close the data gap for this country.
On the whole, the main meeting was very productive. It is inevitable that there was a bias in the focus of the overall meeting towards India. Not only was India the host for this meeting, India has successfully maintained high standards in tiger conservation and holds almost two thirds of the remaining tigers.
The Conference resulted in the development of a resolution.
Sugoto Roy, ITHCP Coordinator, IUCN, 28 rue Mauverney, Gland, Switzerland