American media and entertainment company Discovery goes beyond lens to save wild tigers

American media and entertainment company Discovery Communications (DC), in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), has announced an initiative to protect and increase the wild tiger population in India and Bhutan. Project CAT (Conserving Acres for Tigers) involves DC providing funds to help the WWF in conserving nearly 1 million acres (404,686 hectares) of land along the border between the two countries to support the survival of the area’s remaining wild tigers. According to Discovery, there were 100,000 tigers roaming in the wild a century ago, but the number had decreased to only 4,000 tigers at present. It noted habitat loss and pervasive poaching as factors that contributed to the decreasing number.

Tiger cub among menagerie of animals seized in Malaysia enforcement operations

In a string of five raids, the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (PERHILITAN) seized 32 wild animals including a Tiger cub and arrested 5 people including one buyer. Authorities also seized, amongst others, a Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis, a Black Pond Turtle Geoclemys hamiltonii, a Binturong Arctictis binturong and a Salmon-crested Cockatoo Cacatua moluccensis. Over 30 PERHILITAN officers were involved in the simultaneous raids in the States of Kedah, Selangor and Kelantan. Three of the raids took place at a private residence while the other two took place at pet shops. All the individuals arrested were reported to have a connection through Facebook pages, where many of these wildlife were advertised for sale. “This has been a good year for PERHILITAN’s law enforcement team. We hope that this streak carries on and more wildlife criminals can be put behind bars,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

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The Malayan Tiger is in danger

Tigers declared extinct in Cambodia

Tigers are “functionally extinct” in Cambodia, conservationists conceded for the first time, as they launched a bold action plan to reintroduce the big cats to the kingdom’s forests. Cambodia’s dry forests used to be home to scores of Indochinese tigers but the WWF said intensive poaching of both tigers and their prey had devastated the numbers of the big cats.

The last tiger was seen on camera trap in the eastern Mondulkiri province in 2007, it said. In an effort to revive the population, the Cambodian government last month approved a plan to reintroduce the creatures into the Mondulkiri protected forest in the far east of the country. The plan will see a chunk of suitable habitat carved out and protected, officials said, and action to protect the tigers’ prey. — AFP

Still tiger trafficking in Thailand

A new report from TRAFFIC and WWF finds no evidence of a decline in tiger trafficking across Asia, with parts equating to a minimum of 1755 tigers seized between 2000 and 2015—an average of more than two animals per week. Published ahead of a critical debate on the illegal tiger trade at the world’s largest wildlife trade meeting underway in South Africa, Reduced to Skin and Bones Re-examined found there had been 801 recorded seizures of tigers and tiger products across Asia since 2000. With only an estimated 3,900 tigers left in the wild, evidence indicates that an increasing number of seized animals undoubtedly originate from captive breeding operations: at least 30% of the tigers seized in 2012-2015 were known to be of captive-sourced tigers. It is widely believed this increase in live seizures is directly related to the rise in tiger farms. While the largest number of overall seizures was reported by India, there is evidence that traffickers are still exploiting a previously-identified trade route stretching from Thailand to Viet Nam through Laos — three countries where the number of tiger farms has risen.

Gadis, the three-legged tiger to be released into wild

After a successful medical amputation of her right foreleg, a Sumatran tiger will soon be reintroduced into her natural habitat in the Barumun Wildlife Sanctuary Park, which is located in South Tapanuli and North Padang Lawas regencies in North Sumatra.
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The health condition of the four-and-a-half-year-old female Sumatran tiger named Gadis was good enough to be released according to North Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA) spokesman Evansus R. Manalu. Officials are optimistic Gadis’ reintroduction into the wild will be successful despite her only having three legs. A number of preparations were underway ahead of the release, including ensuring the tiger’s physical health, he said. Gadis had been undergoing medical treatment in Batang Gadis National Park, Mandailing Natal regency, North Sumatra for almost a year after the national park officials saved her from a trap in 2015.

Habitat of 51 tigers in Sumatra destroyed due to deforestation

Deforestation in the Bukit Tiga Puluh area in Sumatra has destroyed the natural habitat of at least 51 tigers since 2001, according to a joint study by the scientific journal, Science Advances. The study found that more than 67 percent of the forest, located in the provinces of Riau and Jambi, has been cleared, mostly for agricultural commodities, such as palm oil plantations. Palm oil development remains an ongoing threat in Indonesia, with more than 4,000 square kilometers of forest habitat having been allocated for oil palm concessions.

The study, titled "Tracking changes and preventing loss in critical tiger habitat" involved researchers from the University of Minnesota, Resolve, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the Rainforest Alliance, Stanford University and the World Resources Institute (WRI). It showed that nearly 8 percent, or almost 79,000 square kilometers, of forested habitat was lost globally between 2001 and 2014. The study found that forest loss was lower than expected in tiger habitats, suggesting that there is more than enough habitat remaining to achieve the international commitment of doubling the wild tiger population by 2022 (in an initiative known as "Tx2"), with additional conservation investment. However, the study also found that forest clearing activities since 2001 have resulted in the loss of habitat globally that could have supported an estimated 400 tigers. Habitat loss and poaching have pushed the current global tiger population to less than 3,500 individuals.

The study also showed that tiger populations can rebound quickly when habitat and prey are abundant and if hunting activities are controlled. Nepal and India have reported 61 percent and 31 percent increases in their tiger populations, respectively, since conservation initiatives, such as the transnational Terai Arc Landscape, which was implemented in both countries. The Terai Arc Landscape is composed of 14 Indian and Nepalese trans-border protected ecosystems covering parts of the lowlands and nearby foothills of the Himalayas. Anup Joshi, a research associate at the University of Minnesota, said the figure showed that tigers can potentially recover from the edge of extinction if the authorities made the right forest management choices.

The study was the first to examine tree cover changes systemically across all 76 tiger conservation landscapes using high- and medium-resolution satellite data. Global Forest Watch and online environment monitoring platform Google Earth Engine, along with analysis from the University of Maryland, provided the forest change data for long-term analysis. Global Forest Watch provides monthly and in some cases weekly tree cover loss alerts that can empower park rangers and communities to monitor and protect tiger forest habitats, even at the scale of a single forest corridor used by a roaming tiger male.

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